Excellent autobiography. Been on a bit of an autobiography binge recently. Also wanted something funny after plodding through Notes From Underground. I wanted to read this book because, although I think Bernie Mac is really funny, I just love the way he speaks. I could listen to his voice without needing a punchline. This is a great book, and audiobook, for that.

I never knew he had such an interesting life. I never suspected. A problem with stand-up’s autobiographies can be that they just stitch together the anecdotes about their life that they use in their act, so you don’t really get anything knew if you’ve already watched their DVDs or bought their records (see Richard Pryor’s autobiography for an example of what I’m talking about). But this book is different. By deliberately deciding to tell the story straight, the book becomes very moving, unflinching and the innate humour Mac finds in his life is tempered by the real hurt. Because he is so matter-of-fact it makes it all the more heartbreaking when tragedy does occur, there is no flinching away, no cushioning with prose or imagery. It just happened. There.

He describes his very close relationship with his mother and the terrible pain of losing her when he was just a teenager.

“I remember my mother was in the room and I had somethin’ to tell her, and I opened the door. I slid the door open and I said, “Mamma!” And my mamma’s bra was on the couch. My mamma had cancer for seven years and she never told anybody. And one of her breasts was missing. And she had a little breast pad in her bra. I looked. My mamma had both her arms crossed across her chest but she kept doing what she was doing kinda sorta. I was in awe. I’m looking, and I said, “Mamma?” She said, “Close the door son. Close. The. Door.” I said, “But Mamma, what’s going on?” She said, “Son. Close. The. Door.” . . . My mother was rushed to the hospital couple of days later and they gave my mother twenty-four hours to live. I remember they came to get me and my uncles, my aunt came to pick me up and took me to Cook County Hospital. That’s when I saw my entire family and they finally told me that my mother had cancer. And I saw on the bed, I saw her, dying. I don’t know what I felt, but I know I wanted to die too. I started walking and everyone was calling my name. I kept walking. They had to grab me. I wasn’t walking for attention. I truly wanted to die, because I finally at that time realised I was losing my best friend. I was losing my life.”

There’s not a lot of books that go into mother-son bonds. Lots about father-son bonds, mother-daughter bonds, even father-daughter bonds. But off the top of my head I can only think of a couple where the central, strong, positive relationship is that of a mother and son. Room was the last one I read. This is non-fiction, and it’s gut-wrenching to listen to describe his love and loss of his mother. Throughout the rest of the book, the rest of his life, whenever anything happens, good or bad, he remembers his mother’s words, her lessons. She is a constant fixture in his life, long after her death. He believes he owes her everything, everything he’s done, the man he’s become. It is really moving.

Can’t recommend this book enough.