Marylou Depeiza’s memoir Walking in Her Shoes begins the day of her mother’s death after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. While the memory loss associated with the disease had been hard for Depeiza and her siblings to deal with, the African-American author makes clear early on that there are more distressing aspects to her mother’s fading away and eventual death.
Her mother never told stories about her father, nor addressed the author’s childhood concerns about how her skin was so much fairer than her siblings’. Throughout her life, these unknowns tugged at Depeiza. After her mother’s death, she found the strength to uncover the mysteries of her mother’s life — and her own.
Depeiza deftly draws readers in with descriptions of her mother and their extended family. While her careful blend of details from the past and present gives a full sense of her family and their closeness, she makes readers aware that many pieces are missing. Unfortunately, the author withholds too much of the information she discovers until the end of the book.
Upon investigating her family’s records, she comes across a bulky file from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which pulls together some pieces of the puzzle, but readers will demand more than Depeiza’s mere acceptance of the facts. All the answers come too late and much too fast. Presenting revelations of her mother’s past bit by bit throughout the story would increase the tension and yield a more fulfilling read.
Regardless of the structural problem, Depeiza’s memoir is carefully, lovingly written with descriptions that bring each family member to life. Walking in Her Shoes is filled with mystery and a desire for answers that will compel readers interested in family stories and family secrets to keep turning the pages.
Also available as an ebook.