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.