A memoir explores one woman’s topsy-turvy life.
Doig (Kitchen Table Stories, 2007, etc.) opens her book with the story of her parents. Joe and Audrey got married in 1940, and in 1942, the author was born. The young family moved around a lot, and the relationship between Joe and Audrey became increasingly rocky. They eventually divorced, and in 1962, Doig entered her own troubled marriage. In the pages that follow, the author explains her adulthood with its variety of ups and downs. She dropped out of college, suffered a horrific car accident, was abandoned by her first husband, struggled to return to college as a single mother, lost a child in another auto crash, and lived on a dairy farm with her second spouse. But such incidents are merely the beginning. Later in life, Doig became a foster-care caseworker, worked with a therapist on her own problems, and even spent some time in a mental institution. She looks back on her life with the benefit of psychoanalysis, reflecting, for instance, on how she found herself dissociating at her son’s funeral. But the account is at its most striking when it portrays indisputably stark events, with or without the benefit of psychoanalytical terms. The loss of Doig’s son is the sort of tragedy that never truly goes away. Later, the author, whose relationship with her father was frequently fraught, found herself escorting him to one last visit to his favorite bar before taking him to the nursing home where he would ultimately die. While the scene may be mundane, it deftly incorporates a range of emotions, none of which are happy ones. But at times, the language of therapy can cut into otherwise powerful episodes. At one point, Doig explains how she and her daughters learned “healthier expressions of anger,” though that description does not make for the most stirring prose. Nevertheless, in the end, readers should come away with honest insights gleaned from a life of personal trials.
A detailed, engaging account even though portions veer into wordy self-analysis.