The Pharmacist’s Mate

The Pharmacist's Mate

The Pharmacist's Mate Rating:
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Product Description

Fusselman's first book weaves surprising beauty out of diverse strands: death and sea shanties, guns and artifical insemination, World War II and AC/DC. Highly personal but always engaging, this book reveals the humor and beauty throughout Fusselman's grief following her father's death. Original cover art by Marcel Dzama.


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  1. Rating

    I never write these reviews, but I just read the one about how Amy Fusselman was commercializing her grief, and I was sickened. That reviewer is obviously confused. Why would that reviewer read and review a memoir if he has a problem with memoirs?! Moreover, if he’s got a problem with people writing about their lives, then he better throw out about 80% of the world’s literature. Further, what does “Dave Eggers on Mountain Dew” mean? That would imply that Fusselman’s book is hypercaffeinated, when it’s just the opposite. My guess is that the reviewer didn’t read Fusselman’s book, or Eggers’s, or Wallace’s, for that matter, and he’s upset that McSweeney’s didn’t take HIS book to publish. Anyhoo, The Pharmacist’s Mate is brilliant, understated, profound, perfectly written and deeply moving. It takes courage and a huge heart to write candidly about actual life, and this is what Fusselman has done. Long live the Literature of the Truth.

  2. Rating

    I couldn’t put this book down and read it straight through from beginning to end one morning. My soul was pierced with Amy Fusselman’s recounting of her father’s death, interwoven with his own words and her own very present 21st century uphill battle to become pregnant. The eternal cycle of life and death theme was not lost on me, but, I think what shattered me most was the theme and feeling of loss that pervades this book. What do we do with loss? How can we possibly accept it? Can we control it? The author tries to do this and she can’t. We must accept it, in all its forms and trundle on . . . humorously, persistently, searching . . . which is the only thing we all can do.

  3. Patrick Roetzel says


    It is very difficult to talk about tiny things and at the same time talk about immense things, but this writer seems to do it naturally, and the result is a beautiful, interwoven story, filled with sweet, serious, funny observations about her immediate situation, her place in larger situations, and the places of others in both her life and their own. With an amazingly light touch, things that seem to be very different and simple are shown to be connected and extraordinary. I loved this book.

  4. Rating

    A very short memoir concerning the author’s attempts at artificial insemination and her grief over her father’s death, interspersed with entries from her father’s WWII-era journals of his days in the Merchant Marine. Most memoirs seem to inflate their subjects beyond reason– This one keeps life at a human level, allowing it a sad sweetness that’s easy to identify with.

  5. Rating

    I just finished Amy Fusselman’s book and loved it! Every page was full of humanity and great heart.

    I very much related to her story on a personal level. The mix of Life and death is ironic. There was a lot of wisdom and recognition in her book of the mystery of Life with a beautiful view, it was moving. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in one day (rare for me). I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

  6. Bryan Charles says


    In his essay “On Writing,” Raymond Carver gave a great bit of advice: No tricks. In true Carver fashion, he’d pared this down from Geoffrey Wolff’s edict, No cheap tricks. Carver’s skeletal prose is largely out of fashion now, which is sort of a shame, because Amy Fuesselman’s The Pharmacist’s Mate proves that honest, bare bones writing is still capable of tremendous power.

    The Pharmacist’s Mate is a brief, though not slight, meditation on death, birth, family and music. I found the parts about music particularly interesting, with Fusselman veering as she does between the visceral powers of sea shanties, AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells,” and “Row Row Row Your Boat.” In Fusselman’s world, music is one of our most mysterious properties. It takes up space, fills whole stadiums, whips up emotion and inspires devotion, yet it remains invisible, something that can’t be touched.

    Of course, death is just as intangible. But rather than fill space, it sucks people into it. “After (my dad) died,” Fusselman writes, “I saw that people and space are permeable to each other in a way that people and people are not. I saw that space is like water. People can go inside it.” And we are there with her, with her family, around her father’s deathbed when he finally slips into the space between them.

    But this book isn’t merely about his dying. He is alive in these pages, too, in the form of journal entries from his days in the Merchant Marine. These are the most priceless sections of the book. They speak in the voice of a young man learning about the world (literally). He shoots sea gulls with a pea shooter, practices using a sextant and treats his shipmates for shock and VD. My favorite line (written after some of the crew on his ship leaves): “I sure hated to see Freddy Hoeske go, for he was my best buddy.”

    The Pharmacist’s Mate defies easy categorization, but I guess you could call it a memoir. It succeeds, though, where other contemporary memoirs fail (or worse, become a big boring mess of solipsism and self-pity) because it reflects something larger than the interests of the author. (For a touchstone example of this, see Martin Amis’s Experience, which is very, very great.) It does this, in part, because the writing is lean and disciplined. That’s the quality that I admire most.

  7. J. Bosiljevac says


    A slim book, only 86 pages. It’s the story of a woman who has just lost her father and is dealing with that, and at the same time trying to get pregnant, something she’s been struggling with for a long time. A very likable narrator. Fusselman does a great job of conveying emotional depth with very few words.

  8. Rating

    In this deeply moving,loosely autobiographical novella by Amy Fusselman, the narrator struggles with infertility and her father’s death. The daughter’s words are interspersed with entries from her farther’s WWII diary. Both voices are genuine and unassuming, and their fusion reads like music.

  9. Laurie J. Dolinger says


    Kudos! to Amy Fusselman on her first book, The Pharmacist’s Mate. A delicate and filling fare, this book is not only about events: trying to conceive, mourning the loss of a parent, discovering and uncovering. This book also delicously addresses and describes the space between events, the fascinating particles which function as the adhesive, so often overlooked by many of us.

    I have had the blessed fortune to have met Ms. Fusselman. She is dazzling in the cloak she wears, which is her art, her life. Upon meeting her, I immediately wished that I could spend hours with her, drinking coffee, eating sweets, and being swept up in her magic, her art, her life. Anyone who reads The Pharmacist’s Mate will want to meet Ms. Fusselman, and talk with her about her observations, which I pray will continue to permeate her future writing efforts. The Pharmacist’s Mate was such an enjoyable and effortless read, and I look forward to reading more of Ms. Fusselman’s fragrantly seasoned words.

  10. Rating

    I just finished the short but amazingly provacative The Pharmacist’s Mate by Amy Fusselman, with a recommendation from Dave Eggers on the cover (“A brief miracle of a book”). It is a delicious kind of memoir/ narrative of the author’s thoughts about her father’s recent death, and her current inability to become pregnant in New York City. The prose is very sparse and the book is only 101 pages even with an afterword, but it’s well worth it. A good read for anyone who likes Eggers/ McSweeney’s stuff, or who is dealing with the death of a parent or becoming a mother.