Plot/Idea: What if a father wished aloud that he could have cancer in his ailing son's place. . .and it happened? In Cotton Teeth, Glenn Rockowitz describes the agonizing year when he fought for his own life while struggling to sustain his father as they both battled cancer.
Prose: Glenn Rockowitz spares his readers nothing; Cotton Teeth vividly brings the physical, spiritual and emotional rollercoaster suffered by his father and himself to life on the page. The prose is gritty and haunting.
Originality: To undergo a battle for one's own life while trying to support a parent who is simultaneously going through the same illness is a situation that, thankfully, not many will find themselves in. Interwoven with the struggle of father and son to survive are the author's harrowing flashbacks of being molested at summer camp at a young age.
Character Development/Execution: Sometimes heroism is simply the act of survival. Rockowitz has fought hard to survive - not only cancer, but childhood sexual abuse - and the result is a harrowing memoir that will stay with its readers long past the final page.
Date Submitted: December 01, 2021
As a comedian, Rockowitz deftly incorporates humor into his story, illuminating the need to appreciate small moments and emphasizing how to keep going against all odds—a sentiment best stated by Rockowitz’s father: “Tomorrow may not be better but it will be different. And different is the only path to better.” Though this is a challenging emotional read, it ably depicts that you can’t always face a battle with grace and dignity, allowing for humor and compassion as substitutes.
Still, readers should be prepared to be unbalanced by this poignant but painful memoir, as Rockowitz recounts his excruciating journey, at times digging deep into his own past. The flashbacks to Rockowitz’s childhood camp experience are both raw and disconcerting, though some readers may find them only tangentially connected to the primary storyline, despite his powerful evocation of “the tumors that were sewn into my heart at camp that summer.” Still, Cotton Teeth proves resonant, especially as cancer tightens the bond between father and son, and Rockowitz reflects on what really matters. Rockowitz closes with moving words for anyone whose life has been touched by such diagnoses: “Here as I am. Brittle fists up and ready.”
Takeaway: Cancer tightens the bond between father and son in this memoir that reflects on what really matters.
Great for fans of: Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey, Suleika Jaouad’s Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: A
Kirkus Reviews names Glenn Rockowitz's newest memoir Cotton Teeth one of their Best Books of 2021