Top positive review
Not the Usual Memoir
November 25, 2016
The memoir genre might not be big enough to hold this book. It is more than a memoir; it is at once a memoir and an autobiography, of the author and of the author's mother, who left behind journals in which she poured out feelings about her life, her children, her husbands, and her overarching need for independence juxtaposed upon the love she felt for children who might have preferred a traditional mom. That the mom of this book's author was adventurous, educated, and daring to the point of risk-taking is illustrated definitively not only in the memories of the author, but in the selected journal pages the author so generously included in the work.
We read the author's memory of events side by side with her mom's comments from the journal. We see the process by which parent and child experience the same events from differing positions of need, as they respond from differing stages of maturation and expectation. We also get a third perspective-- that of the author as she integrates her memories with her mom's journal entries and crafts an expanded understanding not only of who her mom was as a person and as a mother, but also of how she, herself, has developed in those roles.
Not the Mother I Remember shows how the passage of time can reverse roles, how maturity can soften the hard edges of a troubled parent/child relationship, and how unexpected irony can provide opportunities for understanding that which was incomprehensible in the past. It is also a book that illustrates how writing memoir can become an act of homage as well a matrix for delving into the complexities of roles and relationships over time. The writing is clear, focused, and well balanced with respect to narrative, journal entries and commentary.