An honest, painful yet humorous account of seeking unconditional love.

The Good Daughter

SECRETS, LIFE STORIES, AND HEALING

In this intimate memoir, the only child of aging parents describes her struggles to balance caregiving, marriage, and career, and to reconcile daughterly devotion with childhood wounds.

Mother, wife, and the founder of an international school, overachiever Shoemaker found that her need to please everyone was outmatched by the demands of her domineering mother, Mildred, and the physical ailments of an easygoing father, Jim, who developed Alzheimer’s. When both parents moved to a nursing home due to declining health, Jim was housed apart from Mildred, who bitterly withdrew from her husband and criticized Shoemaker. “I visualize my mother wrapping a long rope around her waist,” the author writes, “handing one end of it to me, and jumping off a bridge.” Flashbacks to life in Cairo and childhood pressures to compete helped Shoemaker decide to change this lifelong sense of inferiority. Simultaneously trying to draw closer to and assert more independence from a mother who still intimidated, Shoemaker felt inadequate and withdrew from her husband, whose own feelings of neglect were buried behind a similar childhood upbringing concerned with how a man should behave. By urging her mother to collaborate on this memoir, Shoemaker discovered the tender side of Mildred and uncovered secrets that more fully explain her mother’s seemingly heartless choices. Aside from black-and-white photos from her mother’s scrapbooks, five pages of questions for “Life Review” follow the narrative, though they’re rather generic and unnecessary. This memorable book’s real achievement is that much of it would be mundane were it not for Shoemaker’s gift for description. Also a poet, she crafts dialogue and situations to create scenes that can be funny, heartbreaking, or frightening. However, the more Shoemaker stands up to her mother, the more Mildred dominates the story, and the tales of Shoemaker’s pupils, fascinating in themselves, drop out of the text.

An honest, painful yet humorous account of seeking unconditional love.

Pub Date: April 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9864253-0-1

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Amity Bridge Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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