Debut author Burns recalls growing up in the shadow of her glamorous mother in this memoir.
The book opens with a description of a recurring nightmare, which the author experienced sporadically over many years, following her mother’s death. In it, she fails to call her ill mother, as she’s unable to remember her telephone number. Wracked with guilt, she asks herself, “How could I be such a terrible daughter?” Throughout her relationship with her mom, Burns says, she was always in “chasing mode, in longing pursuit of something fleeting.” Dotty, the author’s parent, was a “spectacular woman everyone thought was a movie star,” who was frequently compared to Rita Hayworth. The memoir reveals that Dotty married into the Canzoneri family, who owned an exclusive country club that was frequented by members of the New York criminal underworld. Dotty dazzled the clientele, and her lifelong passion for socializing resulted in her daughter often being sidelined. The memoir’s title is a reference to the fact that on Saturdays, the author and her mother would spend time together, shopping and having ice cream. Burns addresses how she coped with always playing “second fiddle” to her mom, while also feeling “desperate to be loved by her.” She’s a devilishly sharp writer who achieves a masterful balance of psychological excavation and sumptuous description. Here’s her acerbic accounting of her maternal grandfather: “he was a man with no family at all—as if he too had sprouted fully formed, miserable and alone after he ate whoever made him.” However, when it comes to her mother, she rarely moves beyond her image of her as a “goddess.” When describing Dotty’s lifestyle, Burns vividly evokes the glamour of mid-20th-century American high society; for instance, she recalls how her mom “dressed in full regalia for all her public travels…with fitted knee-length pencil skirts and high patent leather heels.” But the most affecting aspect of this memoir is how the author is liberated by confronting her idealized perception of her parent, while remaining tender to her memory. (Illustrated with black-and-white family photographs.)
A profound, searching remembrance that explores a complex family bond.