Part memoir, part family history and driven by love for an absent mother.
Comstock’s account begins with her daughter’s wedding, several months after the death of her mother, Joan. The author relives the moments her mother would have loved. After the first chapter, however, the narrative shifts from addressing Joan directly to a more general tone, inviting the reader into Comstock’s childhood and family life. While there are many happy, humorous moments, the family’s dark side appears in the stories of the patriarch’s serial philandering, as well as the author’s relationship with alcohol beginning at age 13. The book moves between family history and more recent events, as Joan’s Alzheimer’s worsens. Comstock’s anguish deepens as she provides more and more of her mother’s care. Particularly harrowing are the scenes in which Joan’s dementia results in her transfer to—and removal from—a mental facility. Throughout the book, Comstock returns to the theme of community, giving credit and gratitude to the friends and family members who helped with her mom’s care and supported Comstock through the process, and these are among the memoir’s strongest moments. The narrator is less successful when she attempts to draw broader conclusions about life. The author especially loses focus when offering opinions on drinking, religion, and everything in between, without coming to any meaningful conclusions. However, these lapses are only occasional, and the result is an affectionate portrait of a damaged but enduring family that has suffered a profound loss but continues to adapt, survive and move forward.
An intimate portrait of an imperfect family, offered as a tribute to its late matriarch.