An extensive cast, then, one that allows for an extensive exploration of the fine balance between affection and exasperation that marks family relationships and, above all, the parent-child bond ... Widowed after a long marriage, Joy is a persuasive character, intelligent, independent, with a flair for witty responses and wry thoughts, though in fact everyone in Schine’s narrative is given to sharp comment and occasionally manic behavior. Despite its subject matter, They May Not Mean To, but They Do is a very funny novel ... Cathleen Schine writes with economy and style — saying most by saying least, employing brief staccato sentences, with much of the action unfolding by way of dialogue. Some readers might feel that too much levity surrounds some disturbing matters — a farcical deathbed scene, the humiliations of colostomy bags and incontinence. But others will see this as a proper form of defiance.
Cathleen Schine’s new novel is a seamless blend of humor and heartbreak, shot through with so many funny, painful truths that absorbing them all is an experience to be savored. With a bright yellow cover with Dick-and-Jane style drawings, They May Not Mean To, But They Do looks a bit jaunty, but its humor is steeped in familiar (and unsparing) reality ... Schine shows great compassion for all her characters; she understands that these waters are uncharted for everyone ... Don’t shy away from They May Not Mean To, But They Do. Warm, lively and generous, it’s one of the must-reads of the summer.
[Schine's] tenth and newest novel cuts deeper, feels fuller and more ambitious, and seems to me her best ... The novel’s triumph lies in Schine’s empathetic ability to inhabit this courageous, intelligent, wounded old woman ... Schine nails one of the terrors of old age, this need to camouflage one’s frailty, lest one be shipped to a nursing home ... Appropriately, given that the plot does not pretend to be original, the prose is straightforward and direct, without showing off or striving for linguistic effect. By now, Schine appears so confident in her novelistic powers and wisdom that she can simply cut to the point with epigrammatic insight.