MOTHERLAND by Pamela Marin


A Memoir
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A journalist goes in search of her dead mother. Unfortunately, she takes us with her.

The early pages of Marin’s memoir are fascinating: the author grew up outside of Chicago—her mother was a Methodist, her father a Christian Scientist. Life was idyllic. Father drove a Cadillac. Holidays were celebrated with culinary gusto. Grandmother (maternal) lived with the clan and passed her days “quietly crocheting in a rocker upstairs.” Then Marin’s mother developed breast cancer. By the time the girl was 14, her mother was gravely ill. Though a Methodist, she decided to “go . . . the Christian Science route,” disdain medicine, and check into a Christian Science “rest home” in California, 2,000 miles from her family. Marin was told that her mother was going on a vacation. Two months later, the patient died—and everything fell apart. Marin’s father sent his mother-in-law back to Tennessee. He went bankrupt and moved in with a woman 30 years his junior. Marin, who’s been featured on Oprah, never knew much about the circumstances of her mother’s death, but in her late 20s she set out on a reporting assignment to learn as much as she could about this woman who had become an abstract, hazy memory. All this back-story is covered in the introduction. Sounds interesting, right? But it doesn’t pan out. Marin doesn’t get down to her research until after some 74 pages of meandering, episodic, and confusing scenes from Marin’s life—an abortion, dreams, breakfasts with Dad. Finally, she turns her attention to The Search For Mother—but her account of it consists primarily of transcribed conversations with relatives and family friends. There’s too much detail about the airports Marin flew in and out of on her search, too little interpretation of the past she’s looking for. And the bland prose is only workmanlike.

A story not yet transformed into literature, let alone art.

Pub Date: April 6th, 2005
ISBN: 0-7432-5610-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2005