The book's title, I'm Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing But True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man & Dog, might make you wonder if Diana Joseph defines herself by men, but the answer is, resoundingly, No. She's just been surrounded by scads of them her entire life. And so the stories of her childhood, her adolescence, and her adult years emerge not as a straight narrative, but through chapters dedicated to her relationships with the opposite sex with a couple of dogs and cats thrown in for good measure.
Chapter 1 goes to her dad, an auto-body shop owner who never wears a shirt and smokes two packs a day. Then there's Vincent, the bad boy of her 19th year, who drank, shoplifted, and emblazoned her name on his demolition-derby car. Her first husband. Her son, a right-wing Republican, who informed her at a tender age that he hated NPR and Bob Dylan. Her Satanist neighbor. And so on.
As Joseph describes these boys and men, it's she herself who emerges most clearly. I'm Sorry is full of quirky details and remembered snippets of conversation, most of it revealing in its everyday ordinariness. It turns out you can learn an awful lot about a person by what her dad chooses to confide in her, or what her brothers tease her about. I'm Sorry might sound like a sideways swipe at a memoir, but nothing could be further from the truth it manages to be nostalgic, sad, and pee-in-your-pants funny. A–