An Oscar-winning actress pays tribute to her mother.
When Harden’s mother began to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, Harden decided to try to capture her memories before they were gone. In this soulful memoir, she pays homage to the woman who raised her. She tells stories from her earliest childhood days to the present and emphasizes the beliefs and values her mother instilled in her. Harden narrates chronologically, using the seasons as metaphors for the various stages in life. Chronicling her early life, she describes how her father’s work in the Navy required the family to move around, including stops in California, Greece, and Japan. While they were living in Japan, her mother learned the Japanese art of flower arranging, ikebana, an artistic method of flower placement that incorporates three principle ideas: heaven, earth, and man. Ikebana was clearly Harden’s mother’s passion, and the author skillfully blends in descriptions of the flower arrangements her mother made and the classes she taught on ikebana. She offers tales of how her mother gently encouraged her to audition for a play, which began her successful acting career; of going to the Academy Awards; and of traveling through New Zealand with her mom instead of her boyfriend. It’s abundantly clear that her mother was there for Harden through the good and the bad, so the knowledge that those memories no longer exist for her mother are especially heartbreaking. In keeping with the author’s flower and gardening motif, she describes her mother’s condition as “a weed run wild, slowly choking the path to memory.” One of her few points of solace is the fact that her mother “has somehow managed to keep [her dignity]. Her appreciation of beauty remains as a purifier for her spirit.”
Praise, love, and honor all play roles in this respectful, highly affectionate memoir about a spirited mother-daughter relationship.