Kirkus Reviews QR Code
LIVE THROUGH THIS by Debra Gwartney Kirkus Star

LIVE THROUGH THIS

A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love

By Debra Gwartney

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-547-05447-6

Profoundly moving memoir of the author’s agony and perseverance as she lost her two teenage daughters to the streets, and of the slow, painful reconciliation they eventually found.

After divorcing her husband, Gwartney (Writing/Portland State Univ. and Univ. of Oregon) moved with her four girls from Arizona to Oregon. The divorce brought desperate sadness to the two oldest daughters, Stephanie and Amanda, who became pawns in the endless battles between their parents. Gwartney did not see at first that the girls were becoming two halves of a single alienated self. She didn’t understand their angry sorrow and was bewildered that she could not find a way to fix their injuries. Both eventually succumbed to the lure of the streets, to drugs and booze, panhandling, sleeping in abandoned buildings and stumbling home when they wished, reeking of urine, filth, cigarettes and fury. When Amanda was 16 and Stephanie 14, they left for good. In the sparsest of elegant prose, Gwartney tries to make sense of it all: why this happened to her and her daughters, who is to blame, why nothing—not counseling, rehab, wilderness therapy, nor dozens of other programs—did any good. Time shifts as she writes; past episodes, remembrances and snippets of conversation intersect seamlessly with her internal dialogues of guilt and resentment. The girls did at last come home, and slowly began to save themselves. Amanda went to college, and Stephanie discovered herself at Colorado’s Eagle Rock School. Yet Gwartney’s relief was tempered by the thought that they had been redeemed not because of her but despite her. In 2003, Amanda gave birth to a son. As mother and daughters lay together in bed comforting the newborn, a love that was always there but lost amidst rage and recriminations was rediscovered.

An achingly beautiful chronicle of unfathomable sorrow, flickering hope and quiet redemption.