San Francisco Chronicle columnist Lara turns to memoir.
No one said raising teenagers was easy, but no one said it should necessarily involve drugs, truancy, alcoholism, and abortions, either. The author lived in a pretty complicated family situation even before her daughter turned 12: she and her third husband lived with her two kids in the same house with her second husband (the kids’ dad). Then Lara’s own father (who had vanished many years ago, leaving behind his wife and seven kids) moved in, too. Lara’s daughter Morgan was a happy and apparently well-adjusted girl, and her downhill slide began pretty innocently—cigarettes and a little drinking. Soon she was having sex with her boyfriend (a fact she shared with her mom over sushi), mouthing off in class, and cheating on tests at school. Lara sent her to stay with an aunt and uncle for the summer, hoping that some time away from city temptations would clean her up, but the aunt promptly sent the girl back—wary of leaving a seductive, nubile, and obviously promiscuous teenager alone with her husband. The author shows how her struggles with parenthood affected the rest of her life—her marriage became tense, and her confidence in her work began to dissolve. She and her third husband, who had contemplated having a baby, decided against it—in part because they couldn’t imagine voluntarily signing up for adolescence again. Lara finally realized that, while she will always love her daughter (even when she dies her hair purple), she will not always like her, and the story ends happily: Morgan got sober, got her life back on track, got into college, and eventually graduated. The most sympathetic character turns out not to be Lara or Morgan but Lara’s husband, Bill, caught in the middle of a family squabble to which he doesn't really belong.
An honest, moving account of family life gone haywire.