essays / memoir / nonfiction / review

Congratulations! The Best is Over by Eric R. Thomas

Honestly, I read Congratulations! The Best is Over as soon as I was offered the galley because I was baffled that a man who said he grew up in Baltimore could get so much wrong about the city and state of Maryland in his last book.

In this one he admits he has no sense of Maryland geography, unsurprisingly, but he also seems to have zero interest in learning it. At least that confirmed my suspicion! It also seems like he lived in Baltimore a lot longer as a child and then again as an adult that I would have guessed. He even might have been writing that error riddled book while actually here in the city.

Frankly I still find him baffling. He writes about about himself, his husband, his parents, Baltimore, the outer suburbs he moves, his lack of friends, his inability to make friends, how no one wants to come to get togethers he throws but with such little introspection it’s like he’s writing a really flat novel, not about his own life.

There is no sense of depth or urgency or thought behind anything that happens. He briefly reflects on choosing an apartment that advertises itself as being removed from Baltimore while still being in Baltimore but only on the most surface way. He decides to move to a part of Maryland that is extremely conservative which seems like an odd choice for a Black man in an interracial relationship with a man who is a Presbyterian minister but only briefly mentions that fact and does not really share why they decided to move there anyway. It didn’t seem close to where his husband worked either.

I read this whole book and have no idea who this man is or why he made the choices he did. I know he really does not seem to like Baltimore or Maryland and only under duress moved back but not really why he doesn’t like it. He talks about how his parents live near where they filmed The Wire but so does basically anyone living in Baltimore. What is where his parents live like? Why do they live there? What did they think of The Wire? I was desperate for something, anything that had any detail or emotion to it. He talks about going to the reunion of his fancy private school and they gave him a name tag with someone else’s face on it but it was a very superficial story. Why is he sharing it? Is it supposed to illuminate something about his life?

He spends more time talking about tapas than anything personal. I feel like there are parts that are supposed to be funny but I couldn’t find them.

I’m perplexed he has made a career of writing personal essay collections. This felt flat and unfinished. It didn’t even feel like a book about a real person, much less someone writing about themselves. I can see why he has a hard time making friends and connecting with other people. I have no sense of him as a person at all.

One thought on “Congratulations! The Best is Over by Eric R. Thomas

  1. Pingback: What I Read in April 2023 | Rachel Reads Books

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