This book took me longer to read than I would have liked -- and I'm not sure why.
Surely the subject matter wasn't the issue -- two sisters living through the life of a schizophrenic mother, alcoholic, abusive grandfather, and grandmother who just can't do anything about it. As the girls grow up into young women and start building their own lives, they get tired of the 27 phone calls in the night, the conspiracy theories shouted at them while in public, the occasional broken bottle against a neck or the threats of suicide. They change their names, move away, and communicate with their mother only via letters through a PO Box.
For seventeen years.
The narrator of the story, Mira, is the youngest child, and she suffers pangs of regret and guilt, while at the same time struggling to find her place in the world. She feels she has a right to live a normal life, but now that her mother (by her mother's own machinations) is homeless and living in various shelters, Mira and her sister Natalia fight the constant battle -- when is their mother telling the truth, and when is their mother telling them just enough to get them to come home?
|A painting of Mira's mother, done by Mira Bartok, included in the book|
Ultimately, illness brings the girls to their mother, and a sort of peace is made. It's easy for me to write that sentence, but you'd have to read the book to get how deep and dark that sentence really is. It's not a spoiler so much as a "how did that ever happen"?
I expected to cry at the end of this book because my own mother and I have a less-than-optimal relationship. Death has a way of bringing people together. When I talked to my husband about this, he gently suggested that the mother in this book, while schizophrenic, at the deepest root of her being always loved her children above all else. And sometimes mentally ill people may actually be able to love better and more than someone who should have a stronger grip.
Deep food for thought, and food that I wasn't sure if I wanted to spit out, or swallow whole.
As I mentioned previously, the book drags in places, but the story is poignant, and thought-provoking. Will it be for everyone? No. But if you're looking for an introspective memoir written by a woman who's been through some serious agonies but has always been able to rise above it to examine it, not necessarily condemn it outright, give it a try.
Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off. She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene. She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.