Scattering Ashes: A Memoir of Letting Go by Joan Rough | Review

BOOK Description

When her alcoholic and emotionally abusive mother s health declines, Joan Rough invites her to move in with her. Rough longs to be the good daughter, helping her narcissistic mother face the reality of her coming death. But when repressed memories of childhood abuse by her mother arise, Rough is filled with deep resentment and hatred toward the woman who birthed her, and her dream of mending their tattered relationship shatters. Seven years later, when her mother dies, she is left with a plastic bag of her mother s ashes and a diagnosis of PTSD. What will she do with them?

Courageous and unflinchingly honest, Scattering Ashes is a powerful chronicle of letting go of a loved one, a painful past, and fear a journey that will bring hope to others who grapple with the pain and repercussions of abuse.

Book Details:

Scattering Ashes: A Memoir of Letting Go by Joan Rough
Published by She Writes Press (September 20, 2016)
Genre: Memoir/Family Relationships/Aging Parents/Child Abuse
Source: Author
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
ISBN: 1631520954

FCC Disclosure: Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book.

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People observing us from afar often comment on how close Mom and I seem. It always surprises me, because we are close only in that I am a vessel into which I allow her to pour her own challenges. I hold them for her, always there, a container she fills with anger and disappointments. They are more than a distraction. I have my own problems, but I focus on Mom, who ‘needs’ me. That is my addiction. The truth is that even when someone tells us we look so alike, I want to reply, Thanks but I’m not anything like my mother and I don’t want to be!

Scattering of Ashes, p. 28

In Scattering of Ashes: A Memoir of Letting Go, Joan Z. Rough writes with raw truth and emotion about the difficult mother-daughter relationship she sufferedNot only is Rough a writer, she also paints, writes poetry, and is a photographer. From this multitude of creative gifts, Rough draws on each one to bring the story of her life with her mother to the page for her readers.

On a personal note, her writing is so realistic and lucent I often found myself among Rough’s pages and in doing so reached more than once for a tissue to wipe away my tears.

Rough exposes the pain and scars from a childhood of emotional abuse at the hands of her alcoholic mother. Needless to say, Rough’s search for peaceful days and nights in her own family life is often overwhelmed by her mother’s abuses continuing into her daughter’s adulthood.

Rough’s transparency in her writing is appreciated by the reader. It is as if we are looking through the window and watching each scene unfold. Despite Rough and her husband willingly becoming her mother’s caregivers, this abusive parent continues to spew rages and epithets at her daughter without reason. Such emotional invectives create the deepest scars to the recipient’s heart.

That she is able to write her story with such beautiful prose, almost poetic at times, is an amazing gift of creativity. It would be so easy to whimper and whine and show the negative side of everything. But not Joan Rough. She brings every sense of beauty she owns to the page in writing of these most difficult times.

Although her story begins raw and ragged with damage in place and continuing, Rough shines through each page as a disciplined and well-trained writer. The highpoint of her story is found in her dedication of this memoir “ . . . to all mothers and daughters who are seeking to love and forgive each other.”

I highly recommend this memoir to those in complicated mother-daughter relationships. If ever a pathway has been written to self-acceptance, forgiveness, and healing, Joan Rough has done so in Scattering of Ashes: A Memoir of Letting Go. 

MEEt joan rough

Joan Z. Rough is a visual artist and writer. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, and is included in Mariflo Stephens’ anthology, Some Say Tomato. Her first book, AUSTRALIAN LOCKER HOOKING: A New Approach to a Traditional Craft, was published in 1980. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband, Bill, her two dogs, Sam and Max, and crazy cat, Lilliput.


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14 thoughts on “Scattering Ashes: A Memoir of Letting Go by Joan Rough | Review

  1. Your review resonates with my knowledge of the book and author. I met Joan at a writer’s retreat in Virginia in 2015 when she was doing final edits in Scrivener. I found her direct, honest, and wise – all traits traceable in her voice as an author.
    Sherrey, I too “highly recommend this memoir to those in complicated mother-daughter relationships. If ever a pathway has been written to self-acceptance, forgiveness, and healing,” this memoir fills the bill. My own review was published in Goodreads and Rifflebooks during her book launch.
    You have done justice to the impact of her book here, Sherrey. Thank you!

    1. I’m jealous, Marian, over your chance to meet Joan. My only contact has been online, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her. But there’s nothing like face-to-face contact.
      Her book exudes the direct, honest, and wise traits you mention. Those qualities in a memoir are essential to draw the believing reader further in to your story.
      Thanks for your kind and gracious words about my review.

  2. Thank you so much Sherrey for this wonderful review and also to Marian for her backup and her own fantastic review. I so appreciate your support and encouragement!!

    1. Joan, you are most welcome. Your memoir resonated deeply with me. The story of your relationship with your mother is so close to how my life with my mother unfolded. Thank you for reaching deep inside yourself and making the decision to share your story. I believe there are many other women in our generation with a story to tell. Writing our stories may help them tell theirs.

  3. Although this is a completely different dynamic than what I’m experiencing, the title gave me a jolt. I’ve yet to scatter my daughter, Justine’s ashes in her memorial garden. It’s a task that I’ve been avoiding for three years now. I will order this book. Maybe I’ll find the courage among the pages.

    1. Cathy, I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter. Losing a child is certainly different from what I was going through and one that thankfully I have not had to experience. But letting go is the dynamic I try to put forward in my book and I hope that can help you in some small way. My best wishes to you and yours.

  4. Powerful book and review. I’m almost there, ready to read Joan’s book, which sounds sadly similar to my life with my mother. Looking forward to the read. 🙂

    1. Debby, as I said in my reply to Joan’s comment, there are so many women in our generation with similar stories. Sad but true. I can’t say enough good things about Joan’s book. I hope you enjoy the read.

  5. What a beautiful, heartfelt review of Joan’s powerful memoir, Sherrey. “She brings every sense of beauty she owns to the page” sums up my own feelings about her story. The highlight of her book for me is her ability to forgive her mother after all the years of abuse. This is such an important message for anyone in a complicated mother-daughter relationship. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Joan’s forgiveness toward her mother is stunning. I know how difficult that must have been. I appreciate your constant connection with the memoir writing community and with my blog. You are a constant encouragement in my writing life. Kathy, you’re special!

  6. Dear, dear friends,
    Thank you so much for all of your kind words here in reference to my memoir, Scattering Ashes. I so appreciate the support and love you’ve sent my way. I love you all!!

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