Jourdan’s background as a musician and translator comes through in a gripping debut memoir about his mother.
In raw, lyrical prose, Jourdan deftly renders the worlds he lived in. After growing up in Portugal but leaving to attend boarding school, Jourdan and his sister travel back to Portugal to see their mother in the hospital. They don’t know the particulars of what happened, only that it’s serious; their father told them to prepare for the worst. Jourdan’s mother dies shortly after they arrive, and Jourdan spends the rest of his visit in her home, trying to discover more about the woman whom he adored to the point of idealization. He develops the “mystical” side of loving a parent, not just “psychoanalysis’s scientific pretenses.” Jourdan uses his upbringing to capture his mother as “an object.” She was fiercely loyal, intelligent, gentle and kind—all qualities that allowed her to help Jourdan when he suffered several psychotic breakdowns. A skilled writer with a sharp voice, the author establishes his perspective from the start: “Why shouldn’t the Oedipal situation happen much later than it was once fashionable to suppose?” Readers may also be startled to find a list of grievances the author has against a variety of people, from those who knew his mother to her doctors to her former lovers to a large woman—a “cunt”—he saw at the park while dog-walking as a teenager. The purpose of this rant is not entirely clear. It undermines the connection the reader feels with the mother—a connection Jourdan establishes beautifully in the rest of the book. “Dear everybody who loved my mother: I know. It’s sad and it’s a tragedy,” he writes. “I know, so please stop saying it.”
A heartfelt story that tackles grief through an honest, powerful lens.