I ordered Arden Myrin’s “Little Miss Little Compton” primarily because Amazon marketed the book as humor, and several celebrity blurbs called it hilarious.
However, what makes one person laugh will not necessarily make another laugh, and that’s the problem I encountered with this book. I didn’t think it was hilarious.
Perhaps my expectation caused the issue. I’d expected humorous essays, along the lines of Dave Barry or Nora Ephron.
It was a reasonable expectation; after all, Myrin is comedic actress and she’s done stand-up. She’s been on “Insatiable” and “Shameless,” and has proven herself to be funny.
Yet, “Little Miss Little Compton” never made me laugh out loud. The book, from my perspective, is a memoir and a beautiful, loving tribute to Myrin’s mother, JJ.
It is JJ who encourages Myrin and her brother Alarik to be the people they were born to be, work hard and never give up on their dreams, and who gives “Little Miss Little Compton” life.
There are funny details in the book. For example, Myrin writes of growing up in “…Little Compton, Rhode Island: Human population: 3,518. Cow population: 278. General Store: One. Stop lights: Zero.” (page 31)
This description, so reminiscent of small towns in New Mexico, prompted me to read the book.
Myrin’s description of dinner at her friend Katie’s house was also funny. Katie’s family is educated; her parents are doctors, and they drink wine at dinner.
Myrin is 17 at the time, has never had wine before and ends up getting sick. What wasn’t expected, and what made me laugh, was Myrin’s attempt to fit in with these rather highbrow people by announcing to no one in particular, “I’ve always wanted to own a loom!” (page 83)
It wasn’t these funny details that kept me reading; it was the details about JJ.
Myrin describes how her mother and father, Willy, got married on a dare, so they could get extra vacation days from their employer. That tiny detail, one I won’t forget, illustrates JJ’s character and drew me to her.
JJ was not a particularly permissive parent, but she was definitely unconventional. She routinely brought her children to school late because they were night owls and, from JJ’s perspective, needed to sleep in.
JJ also excelled at crafts, including making a hat out of cake for 5-year-old Myrin to wear during the Memorial Day Parade. The hat melted, attracting bees and young boys hoping to get a taste of the icing.
The stories Myrin includes of her mother are poignant and lovingly written; the ones she includes of her father are neither. She writes of Willy “aging” baloney sandwiches on top of the refrigerator and losing weight by eating only sheet cake.
Myrin also writes of the excitement she felt after having landed a role on the sitcom “Working,” and Willy telling her the show stunk and she stunk along with it.
For me, the stories of JJ and Willy are what make “Little Miss Little Compton” worth reading, and why I recommend the book.
(Maureen Cooke has been writing, editing and teaching others to write for the past 30 years. Currently, she’s working on a mystery novel and a memoir. She’s a member of the Corrales Writers’ Group.)