Disclaimer: I was given this book to review as part of a blog tour.
When Phil Jourdan’s mother died suddenly in 2009, she left behind a legacy of kindness and charity — but she also left unanswered some troubling questions. Jourdan’s recollections of his struggles with psychosis, and his reconstructions of conversations with his enigmatic mother, form the core of this memoir. Psychoanalysis, poetry and confession all merge to tell the story of an ordinary woman whose death turned her into a symbol for extraordinary motherhood.
My Review: * * *
This story begins when the author, Phil Jourdan, receives news that his mother, Sophia, is in hospital and that he needs to fly home to Portugal right away. By the time he and his sister arrive, it is too late. Sophia’s tragic death from an unexpected brain aneurysm leaves Phil feeling completely out at sea. This book is his way of trying to make some kind of sense of the enormous loss of a woman who played such a supportive and pivotal role in his life.
We as readers become privy to an extremely honest and introspective reflection of the author’s mental anguishes. He describes his mother as a kind and long suffering woman who was a pillar of strength through his, sometimes lengthy, recollections of his psychologically unstable adolescence. The first two chapters were awkward for me, but by chapter three, I got into the flow. The bulk of the story weaves in and out of past and present; reality and imagination; memories and myths. At times it is not immediately clear who is speaking, or whether it is in fact an actual conversation or one that never took place other than in the author’s own head. Though I found the dialogue in the book particularly authentic, the lack of punctuation did bother me somewhat.
Throughout the book, you feel the intense pain of the loss of a woman who was snatched from the author far too soon. She was his hiding place from the storms that raged within him, his emotional struggles, and constant anxiousness about the world. I felt that some of the rantings were unnecessary to the reader, though they probably provided the author with an outlet. Particularly toward the end of the book when he lashes out at various people. Though I found this distasteful, I understood it to be a part of the questioning and grieving process.
Praise of Motherhood is a very human portrayal of loss and how those left behind have to muddle through it on their own. In the end, the reader is left with the importance of appreciating those who are dear to us while we still have the chance. On a personal note, this book provided me with some insight into the mental anguishes of an anxious and psychotic adolescent who reminded me all too well of my late husband, also a musician and a writer. As readers, we never walk away from a memoir untouched.
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What readers are saying…
"I just finished your book and loved it. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was beautifully written and was difficult for me to put down!" ~ Kimmie
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