I read The Seasons of my Mother for the book club, and I will admit, I struggled. I’m usually a monogamous reader and will plow through hundreds of pages in a sitting. It took me a week to get through the 300 pages, and I read about four other books in between. It’s the first book where I would read 10 pages and need a break.
The grammar is good, and you can tell that the author is well-read, and in command of the English language. My trouble with the book was the premise. Seasons progress naturally through the year, and can be used as analogies for life. I have no idea why the author chose to split her work into seasons and reflect it in the title. The work flits between eras, moments, topics, and thoughts with seeming randomness. The contents are barely related to the chapters and sections they are organized into. There was little logical progression that would warrant the likening to seasons. Some tangents are jarringly out of context in a chapter or season. I felt as though I was constantly missing the interwoven premise or sense of time moving along.
The second issue with the title is “of my Mother.” The author spends a great deal of talking about herself, often on seemingly unrelated tangents. On one occasion there is a 1.5 page-long parenthesis simply to make the point that the author was admitted to hospital on one occasion where her mother gave birth to her. It was barely relevant.
The novel is supposed to focus on the relationship between the author and her mother (Beverly) and the life Beverly is now forgetting due to Alzheimer’s. But it seems to be more about the author. The book fluctuated between moments in the author’s life when Beverly pops into almost it as an afterthought, or the author’s memory of her mother and her mother’s impact on the author. I found myself yelling at the pages, “It’s not about you!” on multiple occasions. The name dropping was incredibly irritating, uncomfortable, and pointless except to underscore the author’s own importance. Plus, those caps locks!
Despite the prologue, the book failed to deliver on its promise to examine and celebrate the life of her mother. The author’s four siblings are essentially non-existent in the book apart from brief mentions in childhood. The author’s mother surely had a relationship with these other children, but it is almost entirely omitted. The relationship between husband and wife was stated, but the depth and emotion of it was neglected. Surely a decades long marriage full of love deserved more exploration? Did this book happen in isolation? Did the author forget to ask others who knew her mother for their memories, thoughts, or ideas?
This book was frustrating and disappointing. The book was by turns circuitous and tangential. As someone who works with people with Alzheimer’s, my heart breaks for those that suffer with the disease and their families. I see great grace and dignity in the elderly and family members that support them. I don’t feel as though this book accomplished its goal and was not a worthy tribute to a woman who I get only the vaguest sense was graceful, resilient, joyful, and lovely.