On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years after it Happened: A Book Review

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photo courtesy of Amazon.com

In my opinion this is one of the best misery memoirs I have read. Personally I preferred it to Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes which also falls into this category of memoir. On Hearing of my Mother’s death six years after it happened, written by Lori Schafer, tells of her life living with a woman who was psychotically delusional at a time when Lori was a sixteen year old still in school.  Her understated prose makes the work even more powerful. The reason I preferred this to Frank McCourt’s first memoir was because I found this terrifyingly real and had no doubt as to the veracity of the tale that Lori was telling whereas I found McCourt to be an unreliable narrator and I have to admit I may be the only person in the world that struggled to finish the book but I found it became boring. (This is my personal opinion and McCourt’s memoir is widely acclaimed).

There are parts of the narrative that Lori tells through a character Gloria and another Lila. This is not the first memoir I have read that has used this technique for dealing with a past that is still too painful to narrate in first person but by using third person it is possible to put some distance between the narrating ‘I’ and the character. I also particularly like in this narrative Lori’s level of insight and reflection. Towards the end she includes an essay that was written for the “I am subject” project entitled On writing my memoir. I have often written in pieces I have  written about memoir  of the various ‘I’ characters that one encounters in memoir and that a main purpose of memoir is the formation of identity. This essay of Lori’s touches on both these aspects beautifully.

Lori’s writing is in the form of short glimpses of a life which build a tension that binds them all together and not totally breaking when Lori finally does escape from her mother. She wrote when she saw the obituary six years after her mother’s death,

I did feel something.

It wasn’t much. A catch in my throat. A Heaviness in my chest. A handful of tears that threatened to fall , and then sank back behind my eyes like raindrops on a mud-drenched field in spring.

Would I recommend this book: absolutely yes particularly if you enjoy memoir, live with mental illness or are interested in learning what it is like to grow up living with an adult that is incapable of caring for you in a normal fashion.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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9 Responses to On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years after it Happened: A Book Review

  1. Thank you for the review. I also did not like the whole of McCourt’s book, though his recollections of their appallingly-poor living conditions were morbidly fascinating. I felt that The Glass Castle was much better.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Seems to be much conflict between mother and daughter. Might take courage to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I read both of McCourt’s books (both very realistic), but haven’t heard of this ‘misery tale’. I’ll keep it in mind for my book club. Great review, Irene!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. TanGental says:

    It’s a great read isn’t it. I read it maybe 3 years ago and felt every awful step with Lori.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes you can’t put it down when you start. This was the second time I read it. I was talking memoir with someone and I was asked a memoir I’d recommend and I thought of this one straight away and then had to read it again myself. Just as good second time through.


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