Memoir Portrays Mother-Daughter Relationships

Glitter and Glue: A Memoir

By Kelly Corrigan

Copyright 2014

 

In the 1990’s soon after graduating from college, Kelly Corrigan set off on a trip around the world in search of adventure. Broke in Australia, she found a job as a nanny for a widower’s two children, ages five and seven. In the five months she spent with the family, she learned what it’s like to be a mother and not to have a mother and about her relationship with her own mother.

She describes caring for the children, the little boy who immediately accepted her, and the little girl who was aloof at first. She also explains how she developed friendships with the widower’s step-son and father-in-law, often flashing back to her own childhood, how her mother viewed parenthood as something that had to be done while her father was more affectionate.

After returning to the states, she moved from her home in the East to San Francisco, found a job, and eventually got married and had two daughters. She talks about her relationship with her daughters, a time when she thought she would lose her mother, and her own cancer scares.

I’ve never been on a trip around the world and doubt I’ll do that now, but it was fun to read about Kelly Corrigan’s adventures. She tells a great story about mother-daughter relationships but also delivers a powerful message. You never really know what you had until it’s gone. This Mother’s Day, whether your mothers are living or not, I hope you’ll take time to appreciate them.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Anthology Knits Life Through Poetry and Prose

Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems

by Lynda McKinney Lambert

Copyright 2017

 

This collection starts with a prologue in which the author, who is also an artist, describes how knitting sustained her during difficult times after she lost most of her vision in 2007. The poetry and prose that follow are divided into twelve sections, one for each month of the year. Some pieces reflect the time of year while others discuss the author’s faith in God, nature, art, music, and other topics.

In “Harbingers,” Lynda reflects on the ground hog and other species that predict when spring with come and signal its arrival. In “William’s Red Roses,” she reminisces about a rose bush her father gave her. In “A Visitation from Butterflies,” she describes a miraculous event that occurred while her daughter was in a medically induced coma following cancer surgery.

My favorite piece is “A Wintry Tale” because it reminds me of many tumbles I took in the snow when I was younger due to my lack of vision. I believe Lynda was still sighted at the time of this story, so I found that refreshing. My second favorite is “A Pennsylvania Christmas” because it brings back memories of my own childhood Christmases, even though I’ve never received coal in my stocking.

I’ve known Lynda for years through our association with Behind Our Eyes, a not-for-profit organization for writers with disabilities. I’ve always been amazed by how, despite her sight loss, her appreciation of art and nature comes through in her vivid descriptions. Even if you have normal vision, this book will open your eyes, ears, and heart to life’s wonders.

***

Note: Since Lynda invited me to guest post on her blog several years ago, I returned the favor, and she graciously agreed. Her post will appear on May 16th, so stay tuned.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Novel Emphasizes Value of Friendship Over Love

That Part was True

by Deborah McKinlay

Copyright 2014

 

Jack and Eve have two things in common. They’re both divorced from spouses who left them for other partners, and they both love to cook and eat. Jack is a writer in the U.S. Eve lives in England.

After Eve writes Jack a fan letter, they begin corresponding and develop a friendship. By telling the story mostly from alternating viewpoints of Jack and Eve, the author gives us a glimpse of their lives: Eve’s struggle with her daughter’s wedding, Jack’s difficulty with writers’ block and relationships.

Jack and Eve support each other through hard times, and during their correspondence, they talk about meeting in Paris, but life gets in the way, and that never happens. As close as they get to each other through their letters, you’d expect the friendship to blossom into love, but it doesn’t. Nevertheless, the book has a satisfying ending. It includes recipes Jack and Eve share with each other in their letters.

In a recording of this book from Hachette Audio, Jack’s part of the story is read by an American male, and Eve’s by a British female. The narrators do an excellent job portraying these characters. I also like the way the author develops characters through dialog instead of narrative, in other words, by showing, not telling. In a sea of romantic stories, with their ups and downs and broken hearts, this book is an island where friendship is beautiful and not complicated by love.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Memoir Depicts Empowerment through Travel

It’s Already Tomorrow Here: Never Estimate the Power of Running Away

By Lucetta Zaytoun

Copyright 2016

 

After leaving an abusive marriage with her two young children, Lucetta Zaytoun opened a bakery in North Carolina. She then met and married her second husband, a widower with four children, gave up her bakery, and became a stay-at-home wife and mother, happy to help raise six children and adopting a boy from Africa. In 2010, after her second husband left her for another woman, the children grown and scattered across the country, inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, she put everything she owned in storage, sold her car, shut down her phone, and traveled for a year in an attempt to find herself.

She spent the first three months in Costa Rica, learning Spanish and becoming certified to teach English as a second language. After a brief visit home, she spent another three months in Tanzania, Africa, volunteering with a women’s empowerment center. She spent the rest of the year traveling through Africa and Asia before flying to Hawaii to meet her daughter.

Along the way, she describes such experiences as living with a host family in Costa Rica, camping in the jungle in Tanzania, kissing a giraffe in Kenya, bungee jumping and mountain climbing in South Africa, and spending time with her son in Thailand. While relating her adventures in Africa, she flashes back to her childhood during the 1970’s when schools were desegregated and reflects on that, compared to Apartheid. During one instance when she’s comforting an African woman with a dead baby, she shares her own experience with losing a child during her first marriage. In the end, she describes getting off a plane in Hawaii, where a customs official welcomed her home.

I was drawn to this book by an interview with the author in the March issue of Poets and Writers. I was lucky to find a recording of her reading this book on Audible. I enjoyed hearing her relate her adventures. She made me laugh one minute and angry the next.

However, I couldn’t help wondering how long this would go on. What if she put off deciding what to do with the rest of her life indefinitely? Would she travel the world forever in search of herself? It was a relief when she landed in Hawaii.

I would like to have known more. According to her website, Lucetta Zaytoun is a certified life coach, but how did she get to that point after landing in Hawaii? Did she immediately return home or travel some more? An epilog would have answered many questions. Otherwise, this is a great book for anyone in the mood for some armchair traveling and perhaps a little soul searching.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Blog Party Now Live

Welcome to my first ever blog party to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Break out the Bailey’s Irish Cream and soda bread or whatever you consume on this day, and let’s have a great time.

I’ll start by re-blogging a post I wrote several years ago that’s fitting for St. Patrick’s Day. After reading it, you’re encouraged to find a favorite post, either from your blog or someone else’s, and paste a link to it in the comments field along with a brief description of the blog.

The post you submit can be about anything, not just the Irish or St. Patrick’s Day. After you do this, you can look at other postings in the comments section and get to know other bloggers, and they can get to know you. Let the party begin.

***

Book and Movie Tell Tragic Adoption Story

 

In 1952, you’re a teen-aged girl in Ireland. After a romantic encounter with a man you meet at a fair, you become pregnant. In shame, your family sends you away to a convent.

It’s a breech birth. The nuns have little or no medical training. Other women and children have died during childbirth and are buried in unmarked graves nearby. The mother superior believes that the pain of childbirth is God’s punishment for carnal sin so no drugs are administered. In agony, as the nun removes the baby with forceps, you beg her not to “let them put him in the ground.” Miraculously, a healthy baby boy is born. Thus begins the story of Philomena, a book I’ve read and a movie I’ve seen.

Martin Sixsmith, author of The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, (2009) and Philomena, with Dame Judi Dench, (2013) is a British writer, Russian scholar, BBC presenter, and former advisor to the government in the United Kingdom. He has written about Russian history, the scandal surrounding the adoption of Irish children by American parents, and other current events. Besides two books about Philomena Lee, the Irish mother forced to give up her child for adoption, his other work includes Russia: A 1000-Year Chronicle of the Wild East, (2012) and Spin. (2005) In his writing, he has also focused on political communication in government.

The book, Philomena begins with a short introduction by Dame Judi Dench, the actress who portrayed her in the movie. Martin Sixsmith then starts by describing the birth of Philomena’s son Anthony and their lives afterward in the convent. Philomena and other girls who had babies out of wedlock were prisoners there for four years, working to pay off the cost of their care, so to speak. She did the laundry seven days a week and by night, she and the other girls sewed clothes for their children who stayed in the convent until they were adopted. The mothers were allowed daily contact with their children and naturally, they developed close bonds.

Sixsmith also touches on the sale of Irish children to American families. He describes how some Irish government officials tried to block such adoptions but were thwarted by the Catholic Church. In 1955, Philomena was forced to sign papers giving Anthony up for adoption, and he was taken to the U.S. to live with a family in Missouri. Mary, a little girl at the convent about the same age who developed a close friendship with Anthony, was also taken by the same family who didn’t want to separate the children.

Most of the remainder of Martin Sixsmith’s book is devoted primarily to Anthony’s story. The family who adopted him and Mary changed his name to Michael, and Sixsmith describes his life growing up in Missouri and Iowa. The friendship between Michael and Mary grew stronger in America, and in later years, Mary was the only one in the family who supported him. All through his life, Michael wondered about his natural mother. His adoptive parents, who knew the truth, thought it better to tell him that his mother abandoned him.

Sixsmith explains how Michael first realized he was gay as a teen-ager. A priest at Notre Dame University encouraged him to purge himself of his desires. Michael tried but found himself becoming more and more involved in homosexual activities.

In the 1970’s after graduating from Notre Dame and receiving a law degree from George Washington University, Michael worked for the National Republican Committee in D.C. and eventually became the chief counsel for the White House. Sixsmith pinpoints the irony of a gay man working for the Republican Party during the Reagan and Bush eras when homosexuality was considered taboo and Republicans blocked funding for AIDS research. This, combined with feelings of abandonment Michael harbored from his childhood, caused mood swings and bouts of drinking and engaging in sadomasochistic activities. Most of his relationships didn’t last long.

In the 1970’s Michael and Mary made a trip to Ireland in an attempt to find their mothers but were told by the nuns at the convent that they had no records. In the 1990’s, after Michael developed AIDS, he made a second trip to Ireland with his partner, Pete Nelson, and was told that records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire. They later learned at the bed and breakfast where they were staying that the nuns deliberately set the fire because of an investigation into the Catholic Church’s practice of selling Irish children to American families for adoption. Michael died a year or so later, never knowing about his mother. At his request, he was buried at the convent in Ireland where he was born.

At the end of the book, Martin Sixsmith devotes a couple of chapters to Philomena after Anthony was taken from her in 1955. I would like to have read more about her, but she may not have wanted her life revealed in such detail. After Anthony left the convent, the nuns sent Philomena to work at a school for boys in England, and she eventually became a nurse. She married twice and had several children and grandchildren. She made frequent trips to the convent in Ireland to inquire about her son but was rebuffed by the nuns every time. She kept the secret of Anthony’s birth from her family for fifty years.

After she finally broke down and told them, her daughter introduced her to Sixsmith, and the three of them visited the convent in Ireland. By this time, there were different nuns with more liberal views, and through other channels, they were able to learn of Anthony’s life in America and that he passed away and was buried at the convent.

I liked Martin Sixsmith’s style of writing this book. Besides giving us a journalistic rundown of all the events, he takes us into the lives of the main characters, telling us what they were feeling and thinking. The book was written like fiction, and I was compelled to keep reading to the end.

On the other hand, the movie doesn’t tell the whole story and uses some artistic license. After Sixsmith meets Philomena’s daughter at a party, he is introduced to her mother, and the two of them travel to Ireland to inquire about Anthony. The nuns tell them their records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire and show Philomena the contract she signed, giving Anthony up for adoption that stated she agreed not to try to contact him. Sixsmith later learns from locals in a pub that the nuns started the fire.

The search for Anthony takes Martin and Philomena to Washington, D.C. where they learn of his life and passing. After talking with Mary and Pete Nelson, they learn of Michael’s burial at the convent in Ireland. Upon their return, Martin confronts one of the nuns, and Philomena finds her son’s grave and says goodbye. I enjoyed the performances of Dame Judi Dench and the other actors, but the movie left a lot to be desired, compared to the book.

According to Sixsmith, Michael requested that “Danny Boy” be sung at his funeral in Washington, D.C. before he was taken to Ireland for burial. I can think of no better way to end this post. Please click this link to hear me sing this song. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

 

Novel Explores Serious Questions

The Shortest Way Home

by Juliette Fay

Copyright 2013

 

Set in a suburb of Boston, this story centers around a family with Huntington’s Disease, a degenerative disorder that becomes prevalent during adulthood. Shawn, a nurse who has worked in developing countries for years, thinks he has dodged the bullet but refuses to be tested.

Feeling burned out, he comes home, hoping to re-group and then return to his work. Years earlier, after Shawn’s mother died of Huntington’s Disease, his father left Shawn and his brother and sister with their aunt and never returned.

Now, Shawn discovers that his aunt is suffering from some sort of dementia not related to Huntington’s, and his eleven-year-old nephew, Kevin, has sensory processing disorder which effects his behavior. Kevin is the son of Shawn’s brother, who died of pneumonia after Shawn went overseas.

Because his sister, a want-to-be actress, is too busy with her job as a waitress at a diner and play rehearsals, Shawn reluctantly cares for his aunt and nephew until someone else can be hired. He finds employment in a bakery run by an old friend and falls in love with Rebecca, a girl he knew in high school, who now works as a massage therapist. Then, his sister announces she’s soon heading for New York, leaving Shawn in the permanent role of caregiver. By this time, he’s conflicted between his love for Rebecca, Kevin, and his aunt and wanting to flee to Haiti, where a doctor, with whom he once worked, has opened a clinic following an earthquake.

Then, his father shows up unexpected, and after meeting his grandson, proposes a trip to Ireland with him and Shawn, to which Shawn reluctantly agrees, despite anger at his father for leaving the family years earlier. The book ends soon after they return.

I like the way this book explores the question of “to know or not to know” if you’ll be afflicted with a serious condition such as Huntington’s Disease later in life. It also focuses on the conflict between family love and loyalty and wanting to pursue one’s own dreams, especially if one’s life may be cut short by a serious illness. I can appreciate how the relationship between Shawn, raised an Irish Catholic, and God changes. There are some serious life lessons to be learned here, so I definitely recommend this book to everyone.

***

 Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Memoir Depicts Life of Negro Poet

Abbie-1

The Big Sea

By Langston Hughes

Copyright 1940

 

Through a series of essays, this well-known Negro author tells the story of his life. He describes growing up in Kansas during the early 20th century where his mother waited tables to support the family. His father left for Mexico where he eventually got rich. Hughes talks about how as a boy, he pretended to be saved at a revival meeting to please his aunt with whom he was staying at the time.

Before his senior year in high school and again after graduation, he spent time with his father in Mexico. He describes how he was disillusioned with his father’s big dreams for him and his ineptness at figures. He also explains how he ended up teaching English to Mexican students and how he eventually persuaded his father to pay his tuition at Columbia University in New York. After a year in college, he dropped out and signed onto various ships. He describes his travels to Africa, France, and Italy with periodic bouts at home with his family. In Paris, he worked as a chef and waiter and met musicians, dancers, and other entertainers.

In the 1920’s, after losing his passport in Italy and working his way home, he decided to go back to college, this time at Lincoln University near Philadelphia. He describes life at this black college with all white faculty and the black society in Harlem where he spent many of his vacations. He did some traveling in the south and gives his impressions of how Negros were treated there as opposed to New York and Washington D.C. where his family eventually re-located.

All the while, he wrote poems and stories which were published in various periodicals and a novel. He explains what inspired many of his poems and provides excerpts.

After he graduated from Lincoln University, a white patron offered to provide financial support while he published his novel. After the book was released, he had a falling out with the rich woman when he couldn’t write anything that pleased her. He also describes another fall-out he had with a fellow author he met in Harlem over a play on which they collaborated but was never produced. In the end, he describes his determination to make a living as a writer.

The recording of this book I downloaded from Audible contains a new introduction written and read by Arnold Rampersad, in which he provides a lengthy synopsis of the book plus excerpts. I found this interesting but a bit redundant after reading the book. As far as I was concerned though, Dominic Hoffman, the book’s narrator, was Langston Hughes.

Since February is Black History Month, a friend recommended this book, and I’m glad she did. It reminded me of another book I was required to read in high school, Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, in which the white author describes how he disguised himself as a Negro in order to better understand the black experience in the south. Unlike Hughes, Griffin could walk away from being black, although he was ostracized when his book was published. Hughes had many of the same experiences Griffin describes. I think The Big Sea should also be required reading. The more we can expose our young people to the atrocities of the early 20th century, perhaps the more tolerant of minorities and intolerance of racists they will be when they grow up.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.