Myers’ (Don’t Call Me Mother, 2013, etc.) second memoir traces a difficult family history, set against the sweeping landscape of the Great Plains.
As a child, the author learned that she could find temporary solace through music by playing the cello; later, as an adult, she expressed her innermost feelings through her paintings; and finally, in midlife, she became a therapist and discovered the cathartic healing of memoir writing. She has spent decades researching her maternal family history, trying to understand what caused her mother, Jo’tine, to hand her over to her grandmother, Frances (nicknamed “Lulu”), to raise—and what caused Lulu to give Jo’tine to her own grandmother, Josephine, for many critical years. Myers was 4 years old when she began living with Lulu, who, with one interruption, would raise her until she left for college. When she was 5, however, she lived with her cousin’s family, where she remained for a year. It was there, she says, that she was first sexually abused. Jo’tine and Frances, she writes, had a troubled relationship that was never resolved, and although Lulu was a nurturing, loving caregiver during Myers’ early years, she became increasingly strict and demanding as the years progressed—even resorting to beatings, according to the author. The deeply emotional narrative has a tendency toward repetition, and readers are likely to grow impatient as they wait for the author to state what they’ll have already surmised—that her mother and grandmother both suffered from mental illness. But the volume does intricately layer the detailed narrative with philosophical and mystical musings as well as poetic passages regarding Myers’ relationship with her Great Plains surroundings: “There was always the wind. It whirled and swirled, kicking up dust and revealing, if we cared to look for it, secrets just under the surface, particles of bone and earth that shimmered from the great inland sea that covered mid-America thousands of years ago.”
An often evocative and lyrical reflection on family mysteries.