A Memoir
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 Three powerful women form the backbone of this beautifully written narrative about the wish, both rational and not, to be elsewhere: crusty, earthy Mabel; her daughter Dolores, the self- styled Queen of Sheba in her manic visions; and the author, Dolores's daughter, a reporter for NPR. Anyone who has heard Lyden's crisp journalistic voice on the radio will be surprised by the lush (at times overly lush) imagery and riptides of emotion that characterize her writing in this memoir of her mother's madness. Compassion, fury, love, hatred--all battle within Lyden during three decades in which Dolores's periodic bouts of mania disrupt her and her two sisters' lives. Her rage with Dolores's refusal to accept treatment jostles with her wonder at the rich fantasies her mother creates and admiration for the sensual vitality and sheer force of will that keep her alive. In one of the tragicomic scenes related here, Lyden brings some friends home to her small Wisconsin town for a local celebration, only to find a mother who fancies herself Marie Antoinette, dressed only in ``a black bustier with garters, which dangle over a transparent lilac half-slip.'' With each manic outburst, Mabel, who has a mouth like a sewer and a spine of steel, calls Lyden with her plaintive refrain, ``Cantcha come up, Jack? Cantcha come up?'' With her education and artistic gift frustrated by her father, a first husband who became deaf after falling off a roof, a second husband who was wealthy and abusive (the click in Lyden's jaw is a permanent reminder of the time he smashed her head against a wall)- -Dolores's life gives her good reason to flee. Lyden links her own journalist's wanderlust to her mother's escape into madness, and finds herself in places like Iraq and northern Ireland, where the whole world seems crazier than Dolores. Lyden memorably illuminates both the alluring fantasy and the shocking reality of madness in a volume filled with poetry and awe. (First printing of 50,000; $50,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-395-76531-5
Page count: 257pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997