In this debut memoir, Lynch tells the story of how her fraught relationship with her mother prepared her for the stresses of becoming a police officer.
Even as a child, Lynch knew something wasn’t “normal” about her mother, and it wasn’t just the bohemian lifestyle the family was living in 1960s San Francisco. Her mother would whisk her away to the East Coast without notice (and without her father) and believed others were trying to poison her. And Lynch “always felt safer with Mom when witnesses were present.” Looking back as an adult, the author describes her relationship with her mother—who was eventually diagnosed as “manic-depressive with overtones of paranoid schizophrenia”—and how it not only wounded her (emotionally and sometimes physically), but hardened her, eventually preparing her for a life as one of the first female police officers in San Francisco. Lynch divides her memoir into two sections: The first deals with her childhood with her volatile mother, and the second covers her early days as a police officer (first in the academy, then as a rookie) and the additional strain her career put on the parent-child relationship. After all, bohemian Mom had spent her whole life getting arrested for disorderly conduct by police officers. How would she respond to a daughter who became a “fascist storm trooper”? Lynch writes about her mother’s disorder with skill and without sentimentality, never sugarcoating the hardships. She shows refreshing honesty about her guilt and, also, her desire for her mother, after years of abuse, to just go away entirely. “Was she evil or mentally ill?” Lynch asks. “I wrestled with that question for decades.” The memoir’s second section lags, however, drifting through a series of memories of the police academy, where Lynch introduces numerous flat characters and too many scenes can be summed up as “shenanigans ensued.” These are frustrating distractions from the heart of an otherwise deft memoir.
An uneven but ultimately good-hearted story about how childhood struggle can beget adult strength.