I borrowed this book from the library and this was the 3rd book out of 4 that I read this month. This is the 1st book that I have read by this author and it will not be the last.
A lot of authors write about loss but few have touched me the way Anna Quindlen has. I found out that Anna Quindlen has always written about being a mother, the struggles of being the pillar of the family, the need to balance being a perfect mother, daughter, husband and finding time for yourself amidst all your motherly duties.
The book starts off well even in the 1st few pages and you come to love this family of Mary Beth’s. You are immediately sucked into the mundane yet busy life that she has, struggling 3 teenagers while managing a landscaping business of her own. Every morning she gets up at five thirty in the morning just to prepare for the controlled chaos that bursts to life at six thirty am. She gets exactly one hour of peace before she gets everybody ready for school and work.
And because you have read the synopsis of the book on the back of the front cover, you cringe and think about what is going to happen next. Anna Quindlen makes their ordinary lives so captivating, their mundane interactions with each other so interesting. She creates a mother readers will love, will understand, will sympathise with and when you find out that she cheated with her friends’ husband, you don’t blame her as much as you think you would have.
As you read on, you discover that her talented daughter Ruby casually announces that she’s breaking up with her boyfriend Kiernan, a former neighbor who’s become like family and her sons have their own issues. You hold your breath to anticipate what is coming up. The first half of the book is almost ordinarily mundane and when you get to the second half, you’ll see the reason for the relatively bland first half. After “the event” took place, you long for the dullness of that “Before” time and resent yourself for having been so complacent.
As one of my mottos go, boring is good.
This book is really about grief, about grief so consuming that you have to close the book and cry. I cried reading this book. I cried thinking of how Mary Beth must have felt, the guilt of having survived the ‘event’, and how she has to carry on living. This book is about how parents worry about their decisions, judgements and the resulting consequences of all of them.
I liked quite a few quotes from this book: here are some of them:
As MaryBeth meets a friend who doesn’t want to acknowledge her at the store, she says – ” There’s something undeniable about the posture of a person trying not to acknowledge your existence.”
This is so true of parents – They are “one tree, two trunks. That is what we are to our children. And that is the way I will make certain it stays.”
“It’s only before the realities set in that we can treasure our delusions.”
About Mary Beth’s mother, she says “My mother has done it. She has made me see what she wanted me to see. The one person who understands is the one person I never expected to understand me.”
I am not going to tell you what the ‘event’ was about as that will ruin the book for you. I am only going to share that if you have not cried reading any books, you will cry reading this one.