Thursday, November 3, 2016

Of Mothers and Daughters

Today I am taking a look at that most fundamental and personal of relationships, the bond between mother and daughter. Blue Mercy by Irish novelist Orna Ross is the book I am recommending this week.

At the heart of this story is Mercy, the stunning and beautiful mother who has written her own memoir entitled Blue Mercy. It becomes the task of daughter Star, to unravel it, read it, and maybe get it published after Mercy’s death. Problem is, Star has a much different recollection of growing up. Star spent much of her childhood overweight and in the shadow of her enchanting mother’s urges to make her something she was not.

There are more than two generations in this story, however. It begins with the mystery and tragedy of Mercy’s father’s death. Accident? Murder? The result of his lingering illness? Will we ever know the truth? That becomes the backbone of the story.

This family saga moves effortlessly from Ireland to California and back again and from the past to the present without ever confusing the reader.

Once I had opened the first page of this novel, I was drawn in. It has been more than twenty-five years since I was in Ireland, but suddenly I was back there. I could see it. I could hear it. I could feel the fog, smell it. Ross is a master at setting.

What sets this mother/daughter saga apart is a betrayal at its core. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say any more than this, but it is a betrayal on the most personal of levels.

I can’t end this review without mentioning the writing itself. Here are just a few example of Ross’s wonderful prose.

Where I should have had a core, I only had a space.

We walked up the lane in gathering darkness, two feet by two crunching on the gravel.

In describing an Irish fog bank:

Throughout the summer it stayed there, off shore on the water, about 1,000 feet thick, As night fell, it would move in, filling the spaces between our homes and in the morning, as the sun climbed, it would obligingly roll back out to sea.

…a body that wanted to claim space, but also to disappear.

The liquid of the lake is in the air, and so is the clay of the mountains.

Are you in a bookclub? This is an excellent ‘bookclub’ selection.

Many of my own novels deal with mother, daughter relationships - even my new mystery series has this at its core. Ross and I aren’t the only ones.

Here is a Mother’s Day online list of mother/daughter books.

The first on this list is White Oleander by Janet Fitch, a book I absolutely found myself submerged into, and really is much like Blue Mercy in theme and writing. Again this one about a beautiful mother and plain daughter. Highly recommended.

The next on the list is Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, again a book I read an loved.

Years ago I read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and remember totally enjoying this piece of life.

And Beloved by Toni Morrison

Here is another list - this one on my favorite place: Goodreads. In two weeks: A look at spirituality for the two halves of life in Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

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