One woman’s sentimental memoir about her colorful mother.
Debut author Radford writes that she found herself often quoting her voluble mom, Margery, so she began to catalog all the “Margeryisms” she could recall as a kind of linguistic homage. Those scattershot remembrances form the basis of this memoir—a portrait in short essays. Radford’s parents moved to Troon, a small town on the western coast of Scotland, sometime in the mid-1950s; the family moved often within that town—eight times—and many of the author’s recollections take place there. Her mother was truly eccentric; she would cook beef heart for the dog, for example, or free a pet hamster so that he could be properly “fulfilled.” She was also a natural raconteur with a gift for turning beautifully polished, if peculiar, phrases. Once, when asked if she had enough to eat, she replied, “I have had an elegant sufficiency. Any more would be sheer gluttony on my part.” Some of her coinages were more obscure: when she expressed exuberant joy, for instance, she might exclaim, “bonnets over the windmill,” although it was never precisely clear why. And once, when asked why a previous engagement didn’t work out, she cryptically replied, “All cats are grey in the dark.” Of course, there’s much more to the author’s mother than her amusing theatricality, and what emerges here is a full picture of a playful, loving woman with a gimlet eye. The book has an impressionistic structure; some essays are very brief, like a snapshot, but collectively, they treat readers to the full arc of the author’s life with her parents, from her early years to her adulthood in the United States, where she pursued her medical studies. Like her mother, Radford herself has a flair for memorable description, and her prose is clear, quick-witted, and often tenderly nostalgic—no surprise from an author who still keeps a locket of hair from her childhood dog. Overall, this is a beautiful chronicle, touching, amusing, and unabashedly grateful.
A loving remembrance told with humor and cheer.