The Art of the Visit: Being the Perfect Host, Becoming the Perfect Guest, by Kathy Bertone. Running Press. 272 pages. $16.00.
This beautifully designed book is as delightful to read as it is to look at. While Ms. Bertone is quite serious about the etiquette of visits, she manages to keep the tone light and takes pains to build a personal relationship with her readers. Many of her suggestions are merely common sense; others are “how come I never thought of that” ideas that underscore her deep commitment to make visits successful for visitors and their hosts. Perfection is no doubt an illusory goal, and the author strives to strike a balance between planning and attentiveness on the one hand and relaxed enjoyment on the other. Ironically, these “hands” go hand in hand. If you plan, you can relax.
Being the perfect host means preparing your home (in advance) for your guests’ comfort and convenience. It means communicating in advance by asking questions about special needs and expectations. It means planning activities with an eye to pleasing as many people as possible and yet not pushing too hard or otherwise embarrassing someone who is reluctant to go bowling or boating.
Kathy Bertone insists that hosts should aim at restraint when things don’t go well, offering flexibility and coolness under pressure to make guests’ visits as pleasant as possible. Tact and diplomacy are necessary skills, but there are limits! Hosts need to be self-caring and they should not let guests take advantage of them.
The devil (or angel) is in the details, and Ms. Bertone’s book is nothing of not detailed.
Special chapters focus on hosting children, young adults, and older guests. There is even a section for absent hosts: how to manage the use of your home by family and friends when you’re away.
As you might imagine, the flip side – “Becoming the Perfect Guest” – reverses the perspective of the hosting advice. However, since the issues basically remain the same, anyone reading the book straight through will notice a degree of repetition, as well as references in the second part to something already covered in the first part. However, the book is designed so that readers can enter it halfway through, with the guest perspective, if that’s their paramount need. They won’t notice the repetition, because they will have (temporarily, at least) skipped over the host section. One might argue, as well, that on these matters repetition is helpful. . . .
To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the December 19, 2012 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 20 issues of the Naples and Palm Beach Gardens editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Bertone