The child does not question, the child believes in the supremacy and the certainty of the parent, the child trusts. The child does what she is told. ~ Lori Schafer in On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened (Kindle Loc. 456)
It was the spring of 1989. I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and an honors student. I had what every teenager wants: a stable family, a nice home in the suburbs, a great group of friends, big plans for my future, and no reason to believe that any of that would ever change.
Then came my mother’s psychosis.
I experienced first-hand the terror of watching someone I loved transform into a monster, the terror of discovering that I was to be her primary victim. For years I’ve lived with the sadness of knowing that she, too, was a helpless victim – a victim of a terrible disease that consumed and destroyed the strong and caring woman I had once called Mom.
My mother’s illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future. A year and a half later I would be living alone on the street on the other side of the country, wondering whether I could even survive on my own.
But I did. That was how my mother – my real mother – raised me. To survive.
She, too, was a survivor. It wasn’t until last year that I learned that she had died – in 2007. No one will ever know her side of the story now. But perhaps, at last, it’s time for me to tell mine.
(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)
Publisher: Lori Schafer
Published: November 7, 2014
Kindle Edition: 85 pages
Lori Schafer is an expressive and passionate writer. Considering the subject of her memoir, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened, the reader would expect expression and passion. Yet, the essence of Lori’s writing is not based in the subject. Lori is a gifted writer. It does not matter what she is writing; her gift is in the craft and she is expressive and passionate about everything she writes.
On Hearing of My Mother’s Death … is a herculean and intense read for such a short book. A mother who is a professional marrier encumbered with mental illness, something a child doesn’t grasp, leads a life burdensome and frightening for her children. An older sister has left home, and Lori is left to fend for herself. By age 17, she is living on the streets.
Lori addresses the structure of her storytelling in a foreword. But it is the only structure I believe would have worked with Lori’s story. Told in flashbacks and present day, alternating as memories fluctuate, Lori organizes her story in the way a child would remember. Often Gloria, whom I believe is Lori’s inner child, tells much of the story making the structure reasonable.
The reader joins Lori as she watches her mother sink into the depths of mental illness, a specific diagnosis never given. It could have been any one of a number of mental illnesses, but the never-changing impact on the lives of her children were neglect and cruelty resulting in fear, side effects of the ravages of their mother’s untreated mental illness.
To hear the level of fear and the horrid conditions in which she lived is to join Lori on a most difficult journey. Years after leaving home Lori receives a letter from her mother:
That fear, it never quite went away. And when my mother wrote to me the second time, a decade and a half later [circa 2006], I was almost more afraid than I had been the first time. I’d just begun dating a man who had two young children. I had nightmare visions of her appearing on his doorstep with a butcher knife or worse. I sent out warnings to everyone I knew. Judy Green-Hair is back. Watch your step. Because you never know; you just can’t ever predict what someone with an untreated psychotic illness might decide to do. ~ Lori Schafer, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death (Kindle Loc. 865)
This is only one example of Lori’s continuing fear surrounding her mother and her untreated illness. It is hard to imagine living this way for so long. And yet, Lori survived.
I cannot leave you without sharing one last quote from Lori’s book:
… And while our individual experiences vary, the emotions are the same. We all hurt. We all have fear. We all have pain.
But we all, too, have strength. We have power. Even the weakest and meekest show us glow and shine with the light of hope, the light of life. We try, we fight, we strive. We endure. We survive. ~ Lori Schafer, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death (Kindle Loc. 1559)
If you are writing memoir or want to write memoir, I urge you to read this one. Lori’s writing style, character development, and scene building is exceptional. Her passion and expression when telling her story is real. These are the tools of your craft if you write memoir. Or if you simply enjoy reading the life stories of others, Lori’s memoir is for you too. To read of Lori’s life and know that she survived it is inspirational and encouraging.
Meet Lori Schafer:
I’m a very eclectic writer, by which I mean I’m all over the place. My first two novels, My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Agedand Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged are humorous and genre-bending amalgamations of women’s fiction, romance, and erotica. But I also write memoir when the mood strikes; this is how On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened, a book commemorating my adolescent experience of my mother’s mental illness, was born.
In addition, I’ve had a ton of short work published in a wide variety of print and online venues – more than thirty pieces in the last year and a half – so if you enjoy flash fiction, short stories, and essays, please check out my publications page, where you’ll find links and a complete list of my credits. I have also published selected works as FREE ebooks on Amazon, ITunes, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, Smashwords, and Lulu, so feel free to download whatever strikes your fancy.
(Image via Goodreads)
Where to Find Lori’s Book:
Currently, Lori’s book is featured in a Goodreads giveaway. You can enter the giveaway right here.
Note the list of distributors in Lori’s bio above.
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