Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘mother’

Whatever It Takes

Love Feld by Virginia Alanís.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

61eBvpsjijLA high school sweetheart, who becomes as possessive as hell, a patriarchal Mexican father, and a prejudiced school counselor, can’t stop Laura Cano from following her dream to be a lawyer and gain independence. She also learns when, and how, to connect with family, and to appreciate all those who help her along the way. Love Field, by Virginia Alanís, gives readers’ insight into growing up in a Mexican-American family in Texas, and if it isn’t told from her personal experience, reads like it is. Her parents, sisters, and grandmother, all sound familiar, comforting, and often controlling.

At age 17, Laura is looking forward to graduating from high school, and applying to college. Since she was young, she thought about being a lawyer to help others. Especially after she witnessed a tragic event from a next door neighbor’s abusive husband when she was a child. Lucky to get a job at a law office, with Vanessa Hamilton, and support from her Godmother, Toni, the narrator of this tale fights to find her way in spite of a father that believes women are only meant to be wives, and her newly married husband, Edward, who does not trust her and threatens to ruin everything.

If you (or someone you know) has ever been in a possessive, and/or abusive, relationship, what transpires between this young couple (Laura and Edward), may feel uncomfortably familiar. What first appears to be support, love, and care, slowly gets twisted and subverted, until Laura must make a choice and risk leaving the young man she once loved, without being harmed (or killed) in the process. She does everything she can legally, and gets help from her retired English teacher, Elisabeth, her mentor at work, Vanessa, and Godmother Toni.

This story encompasses a number of themes. What is family? How much does one owe family, and what parts do you leave behind? Are there any signs that someone will turn out to be abusive when you first meet, and if so, what are they? How does one safely escape from a violent, or threatening situation, without jeopardizing themselves or others? Is family history something that should be respected at all costs, or left behind when it becomes overbearing? If you like the recent memoir of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomeyer (My Beloved World), you’ll enjoy Love Field by Virginia Alanís.

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A Midwife’s Joys & Sorrows

Born for Life: A Midwife’s Story by Julie Watson.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

41H1LHEanXL._SY346_Being that Call the Midwife, based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, is my favorite series on television, I was excited to discover this autobiography by New Zealand nurse-midwife Julie Watson. Born for Life is an intimate and honest portrait of the life Ms. Watson has led (so far), and her interest in nursing, which was inflamed when she first read about Florence Nightengale as a schoolgirl. The effects of birth, and having children, have an overwhelming impact on the author, in her own family, as well as her chosen profession.

Julie meets her future husband, Barry, at a young age (in 1968) and is married at 17. Four years later she has her first child (Kelvin). During the pregnancy she develops preeclampsia and must be on bedrest. “Preeclampsia is a condition that occur during pregnancy when a woman’s blood pressure rises sharply.” She first comes across the condition at work when it has devastating effects on a patient. “All these thoughts were going on in my mind. I never thought something like this could happen when having a baby. It never occurred to me that sometimes things can go wrong. Little did I know that preeclampsia was going to have a devastating effect on my own life that would impact me for years.” The impact she is referring to is the death of her second child, Shelley Anne Watson, who lived only a short time after her birth.

After having more children, and going back to school to become a licensed nurse, Ms. Watson had several other children (Angela Mary) and much later, another daughter (Elizabeth Jane). Not only does she have to deal with preeclampsia and bedrest once again, for both these pregnancies, but she also discovers that both her daughter’s have Albinism, which is a congenital disorder that results in the partial or complete absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. It can also effect sight, which it does with her children.

The author speaks candidly about her periods of “depression, loneliness, and self-doubt”, which she struggled with after the death of Shelley Ann, and at other periods in her life. She describes the wonderful support she had (and has) from her spouse, family, and friends, and how they all came through to help, especially when she has a stroke in mid-life (from which she recovers). She also talks about starting to attend church, and the comfort prayer, and belief begins to give her. It is this faith that sustains her.

Though this review may sound as if this memoir is just about struggles, and sadness, Born for Life is anything but. Along with the writer’s personal ups and downs, she provides an abundance of details and tales, about different mothers, families, and situations in which she played a vital role in assisting in joyful and healthy deliveries. By far, the majority of this autobiography tells the stories of brave women giving birth, who are surrounded with caring and knowledgable midwives, such as Ms. Watson. It was an honor to read.

A Gradual Awakening

Kellcey by Kacey Kells51-mxCqbmHL
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Kellcey reads like the personal journal of a teenage girl, and is in fact, the true story of Kacey Kells. Ms. Kells writes this memoir in the first person and describes in detail her happy life as a teenager in Vancouver, Canada, her family, and friends. Later, she must confront family turmoil and an event that shatters her understanding of human nature, and a safe world.

If you want to get inside the head of your teen, and want an honest look at the feelings, thoughts, actions, and insecurities that may exist, read this book. It is frank, sincere, and has no filters about what should or shouldn’t be said. It was also written fairly recently, as the author is still in her early twenties, and close to the age range within which this story takes place.

There is not only a wonderful explanation for the ups and downs, and worries, of a teen, but also some insight into the differences between genders (expectations, biology, and emotions), and what it feels like when you have your first love, and someone says they want to be with you, and will love you forever. As times goes on, it also conveys some of the behavior to look for that may be warnings signs of the possibility of abuse.

Kacey begins to become aware of her boyfriend, Ben, and his friends, and changes in how they treat her at a party. “It is distressing to see how some people can change when they’re under the influence of drugs and alcohol! After the first euphoria, which corresponds to the release of all inhibitions, comes the metamorphose; however, instead of a lovely and innocent butterfly, this is a monster that pops up.”

At first, Kacey is ashamed to tell anyone about the abuse and rape she experienced at the party, and begins to withdraw, and feel completely alone. She trusts no one. Slowly, with lots of support, she tells her friend, her grandmother (Joanna), and her mother. After moving to London with her mother, she gets help, and inspiration, from a doctor, rape crisis center, counselor (Sybill), new friend (Jean), an Afghan war veteran (female), and her college drama class.

Kellcey provides a perspective on violence, and rape culture, which is often missing – the direct effects on a young woman, as experienced, and told, from her perspective. There are no sudden flashes of insight, or knowing all the right things to say, but a gradual awakening to how things are, what we do when something terrible happens, and how we can survive and make choices to love again. By writing her story, Ms. Kells has opened the door for further conversation and provided hope for survivors.

 

Help Wanted: Mom

51h-QG6AotLLife Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies by Barb Taub. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Okay, this is a seriously funny collection of essays and columns about mothering, children, and relationships. Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies presents insights and experiences, with which the author decided were better to laugh about than to cry over. All to the readers’ benefit. Not only is she able to have a laugh at the families past expense (and present), but she does so with insight and knowledge that only a super-mom would understand. If you are ready to cut loose for a big dose of parenting reality, check out this gem.

The chapter titles alone give a hint of what’s in store for those lucky enough to get there own copy. “Serial Kid-Producer Reveals Top 10 Reasons Not To Have Kinds”, “Penis Envy Or The Revenge Of Your Sixth-Grade Science Teacher”, “How To Embarrass Your Child”, “Free Parenting Advice: Worth What You Pay For”, “Etiquette Lessons For Attilla The Hun”, “How To Raise A Son. Or Not”, and one of my favorites, “To My Mother & Daughters. ‘Sorry About… You Know… The World'”. Here’s a hilarious example from “How To Terrorize Small Children”.

“I committed an Easter crime once. I was persuaded to dress up in a bunny costume for my daughter’s preschool class. The teacher opened the door and I teetered, six-plus feet (counting the ears) into Easter excitement. For about a nanosecond, there was complete silence while I held up the basket of plastic eggs. Then eighteen mouths were screaming for eighteen mothers, thirty-six eyes were filling with tears, and seventy-two tiny arms and legs were churning toward the door. We’re not even going to discuss what happened in eighteen little pairs of undies as I single-handedly drove the roomful of preschoolers ballistic with terror.”

Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies is not for any perspective, or present, mothers (and fathers) who wish to live in a fantasy land of what it “should” be like. Than again, maybe it’s just what the doctor ordered. Barb Taub’s writing is the best review you’ll ever need. “Help Wanted: Mom. Expanding organization seeks Director. Qualifications: must know how to put toilet paper on spindle, prepare creative and interesting dishes for staff to refuse if they don’t involve the words ‘peanut butter’ and serve as walking Kleenex to small staff members. On-call 24/7, no pay, no sick leave, no chance of promotion. Job security, annual recognition breakfast, company care.”

Enough Already

51HSavPMgQL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_

You’re Perfect the Way You Are.
Written by Richard Nelson
Illustrated by Evgenia Dolotovskaia.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Here is a good book with a vital message. Not only are the words used for this age group (4 and up) perfectly maintained throughout the story, but the illustrations also match on every page. Some kids books are either too wordy, and complicated, or so simple, as to be insulting. You’re Perfect the Way You Are found the perfect balance.

The young girl of the story asks her mother, father, brother, grandpa, grandma, and uncle, if various parts of her body are alright (hair, hands, nose, etc.). Unlike real life, they are all in unison and give her the same positive message. “Are my hands too small?” I asked my Grandma while she helped wash them for dinner. She just smiled and replied, “No honey. You’re perfect the way you are.”

Children hear what we say about ourselves (and others). They can also sense, even more deeply, what we are feeling when we say something. A mother worried about “looking good enough”, or a father wondering if he’s “gained too much weight”, can have a a big, and often long-lasting, effect on their children’s sense of themselves as well.

Young children, adolescents (and adults), often believe they “aren’t good enough”, and spend lots of money, time, and energy to try to be different. This is usually unconscious and habitual. It is frequently ingrained in our conditioning, and thoughts. You’re Perfect the Way You Are is a good reminder, and important story, to remind us all that we ARE ENOUGH just as we are.

Once You Wake Up

51NTSaSA13LWhile You Were Watching the Waltons: A collection of essays and short stories by Gormla Hughes. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A short book, with short writings, and short powerful sentences. A brilliant writer. When scribes, and writing teachers, say, “make very word count”, they must have read the words of Gormla Hughes. While You Were Watching the Waltons combines fiction and non-fiction as few do, and uses every space to its full potential.

Here is a brief glimpse from the essay, Pink Ink and Cyberspace, which looks at the influence of media, role expectations, and maintaining the status quo. “Having stigma attached to you folds you up in eights as citizens. An invisible tagging system. One designed to keep you in line. In line long enough for the Power Holders to acquire more bricks for their empire. But, once you wake up. Once you wake up the anger is transformative.”

The story The Rocking Chair kept me on the edge of mine. There is tension, pain, an encroaching past, and constant threat of violence. “Sitting in the rocking chair, I pour the wine. I take three gulps. I need to numb the desire to kill. Me or Her. I lean back and rock. I like the motion. It makes me feel nurtured. What I think nurtured feels like. I can only speculate.” This tale is a perfect example of the author’s use of rhythm and precision. What could be simpler, or more menacing than, “I need to numb the desire to kill.”

Other stories include The Insemination, about Elsa’s hopes of getting pregnant; Elizabeth’s reaction to her mother’s death, with painful memories of abuse, and not believing, in The Funeral; and the final essay, My Disappearance, which describes the process of loss, discrimination, and finding one’s self beyond expectation. “But I have lost everything that kept me a visible part of humanity, and with it found a freedom. I know how polite works as a tool of subservience.”

While We Were Watching the Waltons is an affront – an affront to “normalcy”. It not only helps us see the world from other perspectives, but also challenges its readers’ to question authority, support those who do, and look inside and out, to see what lies and stories we believe and tell ourselves daily. Creating characters (real and imagined), and using words that have meaning and depth, is no easy task. Not many do it justice. Ms. Hughes is an exception to that reality. She does it very well.

 

 

A Search for Family

51LrMG-G4QL._SY346_A Dangerous Secret by Peter Martin
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

There are so many things to like about this story. It is well written, nicely edited, and engrossing from beginning to end. A Dangerous Secret turned out to be somewhat what I expected (from the description) and a lot that I didn’t.

The beginning finds Garry dealing with the loss of his mother. The grief he experiences is very true to life and expressed with great depth and understanding. What he learns just before she dies however, puts the wheels of the story into motion, and the search that continues from that day on.

I don’t keep reading a novel very long if I don’t in some way identify with, or have some empathy for, the main characters. That was not a problem in this story. Garry, his wife Delia (Deel), and their family (Cassie, Tom, Chris, Adam), are not only likable, but also very believable.

A Dangerous Secret is a well paced story, which gives just enough detail for each scene, without lingering too long either. It is as much a search for family, belonging, and understanding, as it is a mystery, genealogical exploration, and a wee bit of horror. Without giving anything away, there are shades of the film Get Out, though not to the same extent as the movie.

As is obvious, I liked A Dangerous Secret. It took twists and turns that I hadn’t expected, kept me fully engaged throughout, and gave me a new appreciation for this genre of mystery and suspense.

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