The Summer of Oprah: Someone Will Be with You Shortly

The Summer of Oprah: <em>Someone Will Be with You Shortly</em>

This summer, Erin Balser is reading all 20 titles on Oprah’s Summer Reading List. The Summer of Oprah will be chronicled on Books@Torontoist every Monday and Thursday throughout July and August.

Today’s book is yet another officially Oprah-affiliated title. Lisa Kogan, a columnist for O, the Oprah magazine, delivers humourous tales about family life and balancing work and family, motherhood, politics, and more in her essay collection Someone Will Be with You Shortly. She delivers a great mix of been-there-done-that humour with jaw-droppingly personal revelations.

Kogan mixes the silly with the serious and effortlessly changes lanes without coming across as whiny or self-righteous. She weaves between discussing the difficulties of being a single mom, living with diabetes, and dealing with a child who is rapidly becoming a teenager. It’s easy to see why Oprah hired her to write a column. It’s easy to see why she has so many fans. She’s fresh, funny, irreverent, and breathtakingly honest about her (difficult but privileged) life and shows that being an easy, breezy, modern every woman is really fucking hard.

People like me are not who Kogan writes for.

My biggest problem right now is that the chair I bought for my modern-minimalist-meets-shabby-chic living room is not modern-minimalist or shabby-chic. My biggest responsibility to remembering to feed my cats on a regular basis. Sure, relatives have died. My dad was hit by a boat one terrible summer and teetered between life and death for a good six months. I worry about making money and having a fulfilling career and satisfying relationships. But day-to-day, I live relatively responsibility- and problem-free. This is probably a good thing, because I’m the type of person who forgets to eat and goes days without showering and the lack of such personal-care skills would not bode well for someone with dependents or even a real job.

Kogan’s success with the Oprah-loving set stems from her familiarity. She’s the witty best friend. She’s the former cool college roommate. She’s who you call when you need advice and when you need a pick-me-up. She knows when you need your mother and when you need a martini. She’s a character on Sex and the City and Everybody Loves Raymond at the same time. She’s infinitely relatable while being eons cooler than most women her age. She’s the Oprah (or Ellen DeGeneres, Julia Roberts, or Michelle Obama) of humour writing.

So, for now, Someone Will Be With You Shortly will be the book I recommend to the boyfriend’s mom, to my single female boss, and to the mother-of-three neighbour who is fascinated by my writerly ways. It’s going on my shelf for now, behind Dave Eggers, Neil Gaiman, and Zoe Whittall. In 15 years, when I’m living in North Toronto, covered in baby vomit with an 11-year-old screaming at me because I’m refusing to buy her skin-tight sparkly pants and dealing with in-laws who just won’t go away, a leaky roof, and a myriad of financial and health problems that come with home-ownership, producing dependants, and simply growing older, I’ll pick it up, read it, and realize just how bang-on Kogan captured the plight of the upper-middle class North American white woman.

In the meantime, does anyone have any good know where I can buy a modern-minimalist-meets-shabby-chic chair?

Illustration by Brian McLachlan/Torontoist