Saturday, May 7, 2022

What Kind of Mother?

Mothers come in all shapes and sizes. There are “Hallmark” card mothers who resemble moms in 1950s sit-coms. There are step-mothers who nurture and women without biological children who make a difference in the lives of many children. These books feature unique forms of what our culture calls “mothering.” 

*The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave is a suspense-filled thriller that’s also a careful pondering of trust, marriage, and family allegiance. Hannah and Owen have been married for a year when he disappears and leaves a note saying Protect her. Hannah knows he’s writing about his 16-year-old daughter Bailey whose mother died when she was four. When the FBI and a U.S. Marshall visit her, Hannah learns that Owen wasn’t who she thought he was. She puts herself in danger to try to learn enough to keep herself and Bailey safe. Great twists in a book I could not put down for a minute. GPR, BC (2021)

*Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir  by Ashley C. Day focuses primarily on
Ford’s childhood and young adulthood as she examines how growing up with her father in prison and her mother unable to give unconditional love because of her own trauma had such a profound effect on Ashley’s life. Her grandmother’s influence helps us see how Ashley survived. The writing is brilliant with lines like: “My earliest memories are sunburnt Polaroids, frozen moments gone blurry at the edges and spotted all down the middle. Then, at four, the pictures become clearer as do the voices within them.” Read this memoir! G/GPR, BC (2021)

+Honor by Thrity Umrigar, Smita left India with her family as a young teen and promised herself she’d never return, but when her closest friend and fellow journalist falls ill and can’t tell the story of Meena, a Hindu woman attacked by her family for marrying a Muslim man, Smita feels compelled to return to write the story. Meena and her daughter Abru captured my heart with the horrors of their lives plus the way the treatment of women and anyone a group deems “other” is beautifully, but tragically, told. I can’t think of another author who consistently makes readers bear witness to those treated as less than human as well as Umrigar does and also did in her magnum opus The Space Between Us. This novel will break your heart in a good way, GPR/SN, BC

*Untamed by Glennon Doyle, Doyle was a best-selling Christian author known for her bravery and openness in sharing her marital and substance-abuse struggles when she announced that she’d fallen in love with soccer star Abby Wambach. Read her story for sentences like “Being fully human is not about feeling happy, it’s about feeling everything.” Her insights on control and trusting our instincts feel right because she presents them with courage and honesty. She also shows that a woman can’t be a good parent if she isn’t true to herself. GPR/SF, BC (2021)

*Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara is a compelling and insightful mystery wrapped in a historical fiction novel set primarily in 1944 Chicago. I lived within two blocks of the intersection noted in the title in the 1970s and had never heard of a Japanese-American community there. Aki Ito and her parents have just been released from an internment camp in Manzanar, CA, so they follow Aki’s sister Rose to Chicago where she’s killed by a subway train the night before they arrive. When officials say Rose killed herself, Aki can’t believe it could be true, so she investigates and learns of sinister plots and bigotry. I’m hoping for a sequel to this Edgar Award-winning author’s latest that embeds you in the story. GPR/PP/SN, BC (2021) Note: I just learned from the author that there will be a sequel. Evergreen will come out in August, 2023. 

+Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is especially timely after the recently leaked SCOTUS draft on abortion. This novel takes place primarily in 1973 Montgomery, AL, where Civil, a newly graduated Black nurse, works in a federally funded clinic serving poor Black women and girls. When Civil learns that she’s to administer unapproved birth control shots to 11 and 13-year-old girls, she tries to intervene but doesn’t act quickly enough to prevent the girls’ sterilization. The novel also looks at Civil in 2016 when she’s near the end of her career as an OB-GYN who can’t stop thinking about the past despite all she’s done for women and girls. It’s a page-turner that Brit Bennett’s and Tayari Jones’ fans will enjoy. Read it to learn about forced sterilization and horrific medical treatments done to Black women and to grieve what we’ve allowed. GS/PP/SN, BC

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