"Comedian Nicholls’s effervescent debut memoir recounts family shenanigans, adventures abroad, and other entertaining and embarrassing experiences with a mix of humor and humility. The book is split into four sections, each one providing a theme for the stories (or “elephants”) it contains. The first section, “A Broad Abroad,” recalls traveling with her mismatched family. The standout story “I Love English” begins with Nicholls joking about her father’s family crest being “a light-bulb, a middle finger, and an Entenmann’s Danish” as a way of introducing a story about a booze-fueled wedding in England. The “Boys to Man” section recalls her dips into the dating pool, including “Mother Nose Best,” set in Wisconsin, in which Nicholls is determined to prove her mother wrong about her foul-smelling boyfriend.
In every story, Nicholls exhibits a gift for description; as she describes screaming a nonstop litany of curses while incompetently driving a stick-shift rental car through Iceland (“I accelerated and the car cried out ‘help me’ ”), readers will both cackle hysterically and want to tighten their seat belts. Her stories of childhood exude a clear love of family while never sacrificing the absurdity of growing up. If readers are looking for a combination of laughing and crying, the “Dearly Departed” section, filled with heartwarming stories of Nicholls’s grandparents, is sure to deliver. Family photos are given hilarious captions to underline that these stories are as true as they are absurd.
There’s no overall arc to the collection, but each anecdote stands well alone. Readers will admire the fluidity with which Nicholls describes her intensely relatable way of stumbling cheerfully through life. Nicholls’s zeal for storytelling about the everyday proves that any event can form the kernel of a good memoir. She sticks the landing by simply bearing and sharing it all.
Takeaway: This laugh-out-loud collection of anecdotes will delight any fan of funny and heartfelt memoirs."