After two book groups, a choosy friend, and a nephew's summer reading list all included this, I felt I should read it. I had a hard time getting in to it the first time I tried; it's been floating around the house forever, and this seemed like a good time to try again.
I'm glad I persisted. I'm not up for super-subtlety anymore (at least, not right now at this stage of life and sleep deprivation) and so I enjoyed Sue Monk Kidd's style, which all but has Lily, the narrator, turn to you and bonk you over the head with observations the author feels she needs to get across. But so many of those observations hit so close to home for me, it was worth it completely.
I'm not doing this book justice because the topic of mothering, and lost mothers in particular, is painful for me. But as someone who holds the story of Mary in her heart, and loved and learned from Beverly D'Onofrio's Looking for Mary, Lily's discovery of Mary in the absence of her own mother was easy to enjoy vicariously. And I also found her ultimately successful search for and devotion to "other" mothers resonating with me, as I always have sought out older women as mentors and "extra" moms, even when my own mother was living. (I sought these women out because of the strength of the relationship with my mother, not a weakness; I knew how rewarding these relationships could be.)
So now, with the dwindling of the mother figures to me in my life, and my mother-mentors now being my friends and peers, I will try to remember the words of the apiary queen in the novel, August: "You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside."
Long before I became a mother, a freak set of symptoms took me to an MRI that found a brain lesion of unspecified origin in a fairly inoperable spot. I remember going to lunch with an about-to-be graduate whom I'd admitted to college, and talking with him about the diagnosis and the life re-evaluations it had inspired, even as I'd learned that it would not be requiring surgery or anything but cautious observation. I told him that I was fortunate that I had but one regret, if the lesion turned out to be more serious, and that was that I hadn't had children. He shook his head and said to me, "You have had lots of children. Every student you admitted here--you gave them a new life that they wouldn't otherwise have had. We are all your children." It was a powerful moment, and one that reminded me that giving birth isn't the only way to mother. (That young man, by the way, is now a minister. Not surprisingly.)
But that is a different kind of mothering than the day-to-day of wiping crumbs, changing diapers, teaching right paths, and trying to set a good example of loving patient kindness. It has been humbling to realize I was a better secondary than primary mother, and my challenge for the next several years is to change that.
So: on to the next book: Playful Parenting. Who knew my reading list was such a cohesive journey?