A Mother-Daughter Story
Review posted February 4, 2012.
Viking, 2009. 282 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2011: #1 Biography
Sue Monk Kidd does meditative books very well. She catches you up in her musings and helps you reach life-changing insights along with her.
In this book, she pairs up with her daughter and both of them will speak to your soul.
This book covers some journeys the two took together, to Greece and France and home to South Carolina. The travels were momentous for both women. The first journey happened when Sue was turning fifty and Ann was graduating from college and growing up. So Sue was dealing with aging and maturing as a mother. And Ann was dealing with her life direction.
They both write in such a way that I felt I shared in both journeys. And both are dealing with a calling to write. Here's a passage that Sue wrote:
Perhaps she fought any urge to be a writer out of a need to separate herself from me and my path, the same way I separated myself from my mother and her path. When Ann went to college, I felt the invisible way she broke from me, in that way mothers feel barely discernible things. Even now, as we weave this new closeness, I do not mistake the separate core in her, her own nascent true self, and I watch how she protects it, even as she struggles to unfold it. Do her intuitions about writing come now because she has finally found enough of her separate self to entertain them?
In my case, losing the small, true light was more like turning my back on it and finding something manageable. Becoming a nurse seemed more doable and sensible. You graduated and took a board exam. When you said, 'I'm a nurse,' you knew what you were talking about. You had proof. Nobody would register me as a writer. Would I be a writer if I never published anything? Would I be one even if I did? And the real question: how likely was it to happen? At eighteen, I couldn't find the courage. I took all that passion and sublimated it into nursing. Until, at twenty-nine, it simply refused to go there anymore.
I wonder if that's the perennial story of writers: you find the true light, you lose the true light, you find it again. And maybe again.
Later, back home in South Carolina, Ann writes:
One day I thought: what if I approached learning the craft of writing as if it were an apprenticeship? Just do myself a favor and accept that it's going to be a process, a slow, laborious process. In the Middle Ages, an apprenticeship lasted seven years. That was believed to be the minimum amount of time it took to learn a craft. I started to think of myself as an apprentice. I would tell myself, Relax, you've got seven years.
That's just a little taste of the luxurious explorations these women do, bringing the reader along into symbolism, and archetypes, and mother-daughter bonding. I read this book slowly and meditatively, a little at a time, and stretched out the enjoyment all the longer that way. A lovely book. You'll feel you have two new friends when you finish.