The utterly absorbing story of a woman's struggle to care for her mentally ill mother, tracing the ravages of mental illness on both the sufferer and her family. Dawn Elgin, Holley's mother, a beautiful and gifted singer, was launching a career in Hollywood when she was suddenly struck down by schizophrenia in her early 20s. She was frequently hospitalized, and the author, then six years old, was sent to live with her caring, if authoritarian, great-aunt in Houston. Dawn's Christian Scientist parents and her sisters largely denied her illness; for her part, the author fantasized constantly about her mother. They were finally reunited when Holley was 11. While she hoped that Dawn would again be her glamorous old self, the reality of her mother's decline mocked such wishes: ``She wore what looked to me like baggy old-women's clothes, a bulky brown jacket and a shapeless dress . . . eyes lowered, she looked up now and then as if expecting someone to hit her.'' From adolescence on, through college, marriage (to a husband who at first knew almost nothing about mental illness), and the birth of two children, Holley struggled to find the best care for Dawn. Holley fought to keep relating to the human being, and the mother, underneath the disease that often made Dawn the prisoner of inner voices. She (and in an epilogue, her husband, a former editor of Texas Monthly) deftly teaches us a great deal about schizophrenia, particularly about the isolation, humiliation, and stigmatization the mentally ill still suffer. Yet this highly evocative, moving memoir is less about a terrible illness than it is about a highly unusual, in some ways tortured, but also tremendously strong, daughter-mother relationship. The bond is marked by ambivalence, conflict, suffering—and a daughter's impressive commitment to staying connected to, and caring for, a mother whom she has in some sense lost.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-688-13368-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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