BookBrowse Reviews I See You Made an Effort by Annabelle Gurwitch

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

I See You Made an Effort

Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50

by Annabelle Gurwitch

I See You Made an Effort by Annabelle Gurwitch X
I See You Made an Effort by Annabelle Gurwitch
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2014, 256 pages

    Feb 2015, 256 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Suzanne Reeder
Buy This Book

About this Book



This collection of humorous essays is an engagingly refreshing perspective on the lives of women who are poised on the mid-century mark.

Before launching into a review of Annabelle Gurwitch's book of essays about life for women on the edge of 50, I See You Made an Effort, it's best to get certain matters out of the way for arguably required disclosure. I'm female and I turned 44 last month. I may not be as close to the mid-century mark as Gurwitch, but I could still relate to a fair share of content in her book. What I couldn't personally relate to I still found funny, often hilarious, and surprisingly wrenching in one section, which I'll return to later.

An actress and humorist, Gurwitch previously co-authored a marital memoir, You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up, with her husband. She also co-hosted TBS's Dinner & a Movie and appeared in shows including Boston Legal, Seinfeld, and Not Necessarily the News on HBO.

My apologies to Ms. Gurwitch, but I wasn't familiar with her work before starting this book, which might have freed it from lofty expectations but also made me wary. I prepared myself for fits and starts of funny, with not-so-funny, or forced funny, in between. To my relief and delight, I laughed pretty much all the way through. I even read passages out loud to my husband.

In these sixteen essays, which draw from her personal and work experiences, Gurwitch attests that "the business of getting old" should not only be an actual tax write-off but is also fraught with, amidst other irritations, liquid concealers that cost the exact same amount per ounce as beluga caviar and unwanted chin hairs she describes as an "equal opportunity offender."

One essay delves into the "inexplicable vagaries" of online dating for women in their forties and fifties. Gurwitch gets a look behind the scenes (or maybe I should say screens) when she's assigned the story for a women's magazine. One of her sources refers to herself as a "Love Coach" and says her work is "on the cutting edge of feminism." During a "Magical Mani-festing Makeover" workshop, she wears a scent she's created called Vulvacious and expects her clients to wear higher heels, show more cleavage, and don more pink in their "candid shots" for dating sites.

Gurwitch is perhaps at her self-deprecating best when she writes about her acting career, which she admits has "middled." Cast as a "marauding villager" in a commercial that takes place during the Middle Ages, she's required to appear "unkempt" and "disheveled." Gurwitch doesn't specify the company, but she includes a hierarchy breakdown for people in show business. With 16 on the list (movie and TV stars are in the top spots), "Actress over the age of 50" is dead last, behind "Starbucks barista" and "Sloth."

Other subjects she expounds upon include plastic surgery, nonsurgical face-lifts ("I've had things injected into my face I wouldn't clean my house with," she admits), along with the image versus reality of meditation. She makes an effort to calm her middle-aged, "raving maniac" mind and is informed by her teenage son that the practice doesn't make her appear calm but weird. "It's like you had a psychotic break," he tells her.

She also writes—with great specificity in a few spots—about sex. (Some readers may prefer a little more left to the imagination). Personally, I thought one of the essays in which she fantasizes about sex with a 26-year-old staff member at her local Apple Store Genius Bar in California to be outrageously funny, not (thankfully) outrageously icky. The youngling's name is AuDum. Pronounced autumn, he says, "Like the season." In her fantasy of seduction, she makes a mental note of turn-off topics of conversation, like films about senior citizens falling in love at resorts in India, anything with Meryl Streep, and the current book she's reading titled Why Men Die First.

One essay veers into serious territory. It centers on Gurwitch's friend who has pancreatic cancer, "one of those no-one-gets-out-of-here-alive cancers." About the experience of witnessing her friend's struggle, Gurwitch writes, "What is the right word for the complete absence of anything funny?" Yet, astonishingly, she and her friends (including her ill friend) find funny moments throughout the ordeal. Here, Gurwitch beautifully balances pathos and comedy, attributable to what I'm going to define as her maturity instead of her age.

The question, however, remains: Will this book—and Gurwitch's brand of humor—appeal to all women? I pondered this awhile and I'll leave it at this. No matter what your age, if you like your comedy subtle, even on the dry side, these essays may not be for you. But if you're searching for unsparing, often hysterical frankness, I See You Made an Effort just might reflect some of your own experiences or serve as reassurance that what's ahead may not be so bad, as long as you do what Gurwitch's gynecologist told her: Stay funny.

Reviewed by Suzanne Reeder

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in April 2014, and has been updated for the March 2015 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!


Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked I See You Made an Effort, try these:

  • Look Alive Out There jacket

    Look Alive Out There

    by Sloane Crosley

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More by this author

    A brand-new collection of essays filled with hilarity, wit, and charm. The characteristic heart and punch-packing observations are back, but with a newfound coat of maturity. A thin coat. More of a blazer, really.

  • Uncommon Type jacket

    Uncommon Type

    by Tom Hanks

    Published 2018

    About this book

    More by this author

    A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.

We have 11 read-alikes for I See You Made an Effort, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Join BookBrowse

For a year of great reading
about exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    Loved and Missed
    by Susie Boyt
    London-based author and theater director Susie Boyt has written seven novels and the PEN Ackerley ...
  • Book Jacket: Beyond the Door of No Return
    Beyond the Door of No Return
    by David Diop
    In early 19th-century France, Aglaé's father Michel Adanson dies of old age. Sitting at ...
  • Book Jacket: Crossings
    by Ben Goldfarb
    We've all seen it—a dead animal carcass on the side of the road, clearly mowed down by a car. ...
  • Book Jacket: Wifedom
    by Anna Funder
    When life became overwhelming for writer, wife, and mother Anna Funder in the summer of 2017, she ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Fair Rosaline
by Natasha Solomons
A subversive, powerful untelling of Romeo and Juliet by New York Times bestselling author Natasha Solomons.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Devil Makes Three
    by Ben Fountain

    A brilliant and propulsive novel set in Haiti from the award-winning, bestselling author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.

  • Book Jacket

    The Wren, the Wren
    by Anne Enright

    An incandescent novel about the inheritance of trauma, wonder, and love across three generations of women.

Win This Book
Win Moscow X

25 Copies to Give Away!

A daring CIA operation threatens chaos in the Kremlin. But can Langley trust the Russian at its center?



Solve this clue:

A M I A Terrible T T W

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.