A roller coaster ride of crushing disappointment, emotional and physical exhaustion, skin-of-one’s-teeth endurance, and faith in God are the themes of this slice-of-life memoir dealing with the full range of issues the author faced during the 13 months she cared for her aging mother in her home. The catch: instead of a rich bonding time for mother and daughter, the 89-year-old mother’s entrenched narcissistic personality sabotaged all happiness for the pair and threatened to destroy the author’s finances, health, and personal life.
Readers interested in a scrupulously honest narrative of the struggle to love and honor a dependent, mentally ill parent against brutal odds will appreciate the author’s willingness to tell it like it really was, coping 24/7 with an elder who pushed her to what felt like the limits of her own sanity. The take-away lessons: sometimes we can’t help another because that other chooses not to receive; sometimes our purest motives are interpreted as evil; sometimes nothing changes.
The author’s candid confession of often loathing her own mother despite her deeply held Christian beliefs, of her longing to be free from her duty, is the first strength of this book. The second is the generous back story she provides of growing up in a Latino-Native American family, recounted in all its complexity and clash of culture as an attempt to understand both her mother’s issues and her own.
The weakness of the book lies in much repetition of material and a tendency to draw out many of the dialogues she had with her mother. More concise, and fewer, dialogues would have created a stronger story.
Nonetheless, all things considered, a memoir that comes to grips on this level with the unsparing ravages of mental illness on a family will be welcome by some who suffer as the author did.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.