I recently attended a book festival where I heard author Maya Shanbhag Lang talk about her book and her life -- her pregnancy, her daughter, her mother and her mother's journey into Alzheimer's. The book is a memoir called What We Carry, and I recommend it to all women, especially women who are around our age.
I usually don't recommend books. For one thing, most people aren't interested in books -- or at least not interested enough to read them. According to the Department of Education fewer than half of Americans adults are proficient at reading. A quarter of Americans admit to never reading a book. Many others say they read or listen to just one book a year. The average book reader gets through four books per year. But the average is skewed by a few avid readers -- mostly college-educated women -- who go through a few dozen per year.
I guess I'm a pretty avid reader. But honestly, most of the books I pick up are not academic tomes or serious literature. I gravitate toward mysteries from people like Michael Connelly and Robert Crais . . . and yeah, I admit it, I have gone through Sue Grafton from A is for Alibi to Y is for Yesterday.
Sometimes I read history (like The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson), but my latest finds are George Pelecanos, who sets his stories in Washington, DC, and Stephen Mack Jones who prowls the streets of Detroit.
To be honest, I didn't much like the first half of the book. The author drones on, charging her father with abuse, complaining about her mother's neglect, moaning about her depression.
But then her mother starts to develop Alzheimer's. About halfway through the book the mother moves in with Maya and her husband and young daughter. That's when Maya begins to unravel the myths and false stories of her mother's life, and gets to know the real person with all her strengths and frailties.
Eventually Maya and her brother (who doesn't do much to help) decide to put their mother into an assisted-living facility. This changes things yet again. Maya finally accepts who her mother really is and begins to appreciate all her mother has done. Maya struggles to understand the idea of home, the reality of love, the tension between self care and caring for others. This new relationship also influences how Maya sees her own daughter and affects her emotional reaction to the demands of motherhood.
Like I said, most men will probably not be interested in the complexities and emotional ups and downs of this mother/daughter relationship. But I think a lot of women will identify with her journey. If I'm wrong, in my next post about books I'll gun for mysteries which, by all evidence, are more closely handcuffed to my own guilty pleasures.