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Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Different Aspects of Motherhood

Reprinted from the Citizen

Mother’s Day is three weeks away and that got me thinking about the slate of books I have recently read that deal with issues about motherhood: the good, the bad, the funny and, yes, even the sad.

Patti Callahan Henry’s And Then I Found You is fiction but it has its roots in reality. Henry, a well-known writer of contemporary women’s novels, was contacted on her Facebook page by a young woman who believed that she was the daughter given up for adoption years ago by Henry’s sister.

It turned out to be true, and Henry wrote a novel with this story as the jumping off point. Kate Vaughn finds an engagement ring in her boyfriend’s dresser, but realizes that she can’t marry him until she addresses head-on something from her past. When Kate was twenty-one, she became pregnant by her first boyfriend and gave the baby up for adoption.

Is Kate still in love with her first love? She must see him in order to move forward with her life. At the same time, Kate’s sister is contacted on Facebook by a young woman who has the same birthday as the baby Kate gave up for adoption thirteen years ago.

I found it hard to relate to Kate, as she makes decisions that I find perplexing. I think that being so close to a real situation may have made it difficult for Henry to write about this personal subject in a fictional story. (3 stars) 
Patti Callahan Henry's website is here.

Amy Shearn writes about the difficulties of motherhood in her novel The Mermaid of Brooklyn. Jenny Lipkin is married to Harry, who has a gambling problem. One day he says he’s going for cigarettes and doesn’t return, leaving Jenny to deal with their two very young children on her own in their tiny, toy-filled Park Slope apartment.

Jenny is at her wit’s end, and makes a bad decision that ends up with a mermaid rescuing her.  The mermaid inhabits Jenny’s body and tries to get Jenny to seduce the Cute Dad, the man all the mommies at the playground find dreamy.

The novel tells some truths about the difficulties of marriage and motherhood, with a splash of fairy tale thrown in. It is a witty novel, and the reader has to decide whether the mermaid is real or a manifestation of Jenny’s mind. (4 stars) My full review is here. 
Amy Shearn's website is here.

If mysteries are more your style, Hallie Ephron’s There Was An Old Woman has some motherhood issues of its own. Evie‘s sister calls because their mother has been hospitalized.

Their mother Sandra is an alcoholic, troubled woman. She rarely has a kind word for her daughters, and Evie hasn’t spoken to her in months. Her mother is in bad shape, and Evie is appalled by the condition of Sandra’s home. It looks like hoarders live there, and it wasn’t like that a few months ago.

Mina, a 91-year-old neighbor, suspects that something sinister is going on in the neighborhood. Houses catch fire, neighbors are dropping like flies and a developer is trying to buy up all of the property to build expensive waterfront homes.

Mina is a fantastic character and she teams up with Evie to find out what really happened to Sandra and what the new nosy neighbor who spent a lot of time with Sandra is really doing. (Gladys Kravitz he ain’t.) (4 stars) My full review is here.
Hallie Ephron's website is here.

On the non-fiction side, Carol Burnett’s Carrie and Me, is about her relationship with her daughter Carrie, who had drug issues and died tragically at the age of thirty-eight from lung cancer.

Burnett writes candidly about Carrie’s teenage drug abuse. Carol and her husband didn’t suspect that Carrie was using drugs until it was too late. They tried understanding, they tried tough love, and eventually they sent Carrie to rehab out of state.

This book deals honestly with addiction, and the effect on not only the one with the addiction, but on the entire family. Burnett describes the pain, the panic and the bargaining with God that she hoped would save her daughter, first from drugs, then from cancer. It is very moving and emotional. (4 stars)
More on Carrie and Me can be found here.

The last book is Don’t Lick the Minivan, which came out of Leanne Shirtliffe’s blog about motherhood. She and her husband have twins, a boy and a girl , and this book hilariously covers their first year in Thailand, then moves forward to Canada and preschool.

This book took me right back to when my boys were that age, many years ago. The best part of the book is when the children are school age, and she recounts the crazy things kids say and do. This book publishes on May 9th, just in time for Mother’s Day, and if you like to laugh about being a parent, you’ll like this one. (4 stars)
Leanne Shirtliffe's blog, Ironic Mom, is here.


  1. Great roundup! The Mermaid of Brooklyn looks interesting, and I love the title Don't Lick the Minivan.

    1. Yeah, how can you not love a story about parenting called Don't Lick the Minivan?