Pieces of My Mother: A Memoirby Melissa Cistaro Published 05 May 2015
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This provocative, poignant memoir of a daughter whose mother left her behind by choice begs the question: Are we destined to make the same mistakes as our parents?
One summer, Melissa Cistaro's mother drove off without explanation Devastated, Melissa and her brothers were left to pick up the pieces, always tormented by the thought: Why did their mother abandon them?
Thirty-five years later, with children of her own, Melissa finds herself in Olympia, Washington, as her mother is dying. After decades of hiding her painful memories, she has just days to find out what happened that summer and confront the fear she could do the same to her kids. But Melissa never expects to stumble across a cache of letters her mother wrote to her but never sent, which could hold the answers she seeks.
Haunting yet ultimately uplifting, Pieces of My Mother chronicles one woman's quest to discover what drives a mother to walk away from the children she loves. Alternating between Melissa's tumultuous coming-of-age and her mother's final days, this captivating memoir reveals how our parents' choices impact our own and how we can survive those to forge our own paths.
"Pieces of My Mother: A Memoir" Reviews
This book hit such a chord in me that I really had a hard time discussing it for a bit. My situation is not the same but parrallel. I too made peace with my Mom but it was as I moved her in with me to care for her after her cancer diagnosis. I had the most intense, important, healing, painful, and jarring 4 months of my life. When I held my Mom as she passed I was blessed with a heart that was mended and an understanding of my Mother on a human level. What a gift.
This book can be dark but this is Melissa Cistaro's truth. Not many people can put into words so eloquently the pain and confusion of being denied a mothers love. The thing about Memoirs is they are so deeply personal and to me... brave. For someone to turn their heart inside out for the world to see and judge is an astonishingly brave thing to do. While I am sure there are personal reasons for doing it also lets people know they are not alone.
Thank you Melissa for sharing. Thank you Netgalley and Sourcebooks for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
A special thank you to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for an ARC exchange for an honest review.
Coming in Paperback, Feb 2, 2016. The word on the street is that Pieces of My Mother will be a great selection for book clubs!
Melissa Cistaro courageously steps out to deliver a poignant memoir, PIECES OF MY MOTHER, a heartbreaking story, drawn from memory, letters, and early recollections of her own childhood and family trials.
While trying to sort out her troubled family and a mother who left when she was a small girl, she reflects as a grown woman, while looking at her own family, and wonders genetics can spill over and make you question yourself as a mother. Are we destined to repeat our past environment?
Perfect timing as we approach Mother’s Day, to appreciate our mothers, and realize some children do not always have the proper parents—ones to love and protect them, to serve as viable role models for their children. These children grow up always wondering if they were to blame for their parent’s absence, and desperately seek love and validation.
As a child, Melissa sees her mother drive off while her dad informs the family their mother is "taking a break" from everyone and not very forthcoming about the details. They can only hope she will return for their birthday, or possibly a special holiday. However, when she does, is she really there? She and her brothers--Jamie and Eden, alone without a mother.
Now a mother herself, how can she tell her daughter a dark truth, she was leavable and unkeepable. What if there is some sort of genetic family flaw, some kind of leaving gene that unexpectedly grabs hold of mothers like the ones in her family? What if the gene is lying dormant inside of her? What if her own daughter worries she may leave one day?
She pictures her mom, a thousand miles away, and only visiting a few times, while each of the children carried "her leaving" in different ways. She took all the colors with her. She drifted in and out of their lives like live-in sitters, always seeming just out of reach. She wants her own daughter to feel safe and loved, not left the way she has always felt.
Now years later, a mom with children of her own, she finds herself in Washington, as her mother is dying. Her mom has cirrhosis and liver cancer; all the years of drinking have caught up with her. All her fears surface. She is leaving once again. She will only be sixty five in five days and she promises her own family she will be home by New Year’s Eve. Her own family needs her and wants to make sure she WILL return.
Her mom is as mysterious as ever, yet her mother surrounds herself with bits and pieces of life collected; a life she never really knew – the books she loved. Melissa began to fill her own notebooks, only attempting to understand her mom’s leaving, searching for memories that could rescue her. Believing that if she could dig up the goodness in the things that haunted her, there would be a chance she could save her mom, her brothers, her dad, and herself. If she can get the words right, maybe she can keep her alive. She wants desperately to understand a woman who is dying.
As she is going through her mother’s things, she finds folders, letters, treasures, and all the while she recalls the days she was afraid to move to yet another house, for the fear her mom may not be able to find them; if and when, she would come back. Now, letters her mom never sent may provide her comfort and answers. Her mom and dad were both hoarders, coveting treasures and not one of these items will keep her alive. She too suffers from hanging on to things.
However, as she reads her mom’s letters, thirty-six years have passed since she watched the her mom drive away in her baby-blue Dodge Dart, she still wonders what if she had called out to her, would she have stayed? Now she has to make the decision to leave her mom to die, to get back to her own family and a miracle of her own.
A deeply moving complex, honest portrayal of family, of motherhood, yet uplifting and captivating; alternating between Melissa and her mother, we see firsthand how a parent’s choices impact their children’s lives for generations to come with emotional devastation.
From regret, understanding, acceptance, to forgiveness; a book of the strong bonds of love and motherhood. What doesn't kill you, will fortunately make you stronger.
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I was hovering between 3 and 4 stars- I liked the book, trying to decide if I "really" liked it. I decided to go with four because it is really well written.
I found I had a hard time identifying with the author due to two decisions she makes. One, to leave her own children and husband on Christmas day to be with her dying mother (okay typing out that sentence it looks horrible but as we all know from the blurb, this is her dying mother who abandoned the entire family when the author was a young child). Two, at the end where she says "I wouldn't trade my mom for any other in the world" and when her brother tells her "There are no rules to forgiveness". Actually, there are. You have to admit what you did was wrong and ask forgiveness from the people you wronged. I am glad that the author found acceptance. I think you can find acceptance but not forgive. I am still trying to find acceptance in some of the decisions my own mother made, and maybe when I am older, I'll be able to find it, or even forgive. But not yet.
My book club is reading this book for this month but I just can't go to that meeting. Obviously I have stuff to work through.
This was a fast read for me, and an interesting one. The author recalls a pivotal childhood moment of waving goodbye to her mother from her window. From that point on she suffered issues of abandonment as she longed for her mother to return. As she became an adult, anger and resentment became stronger, but the desire for a connection never left her. Melissa loves her children and expresses concern that there could be something hereditary that will cause her in any way to act as her mother did. Given all she went through, I'm amazed and impressed at what a good mother she became. As a reader whose mother's love and presence never wavered, this book blessed me with feeling fortunate for all I had and also for all I was able to give to my own. In our family tree there is a situation of maternal abandonment, though in a "softer" context. Maybe that is why I found the subject fascinating. I like when books help us to understand ourselves and those whom we have known. I would have liked a stronger sense of closure at the end, even if it was in the form of the strength of the father in the situation.
This memoir falls firmly into the category of "I'm sorry that your life sucked but that doesn't mean that you should write about it."
Melissa Cistaros had a difficult childhood, and the constant non-presence of her mother probably made more of an impact than her presence ever could. It's hard to be a little girl without a mother. It's hard to be a big girl without a mother. And some of the ramifications of that raised by Cistaros are interesting and worthy of thought: How will my mothering be affected by my lack of one? How much of the desire to escape from my children is genetic? How much am I going to fuck up my own kids? I haven't seen these thoughts explored elsewhere and I appreciate them, in concept.
However, I found the voice of this book to be mediocre at best, trite at worst. Details that I assume were added to flesh out a scene, but that were not relevant enough or evocative enough to resonate, should have just been edited out. Asides in the thought process that were meant to be revelatory felt obvious or tired. The whole piece could have used a harsh round of workshopping and cut by at least a third.
I always feel like a jackass talking this way about what is essentially someone laying bare their very personal thoughts and experiences, but for me, content will never trump style. And style, voice, resonance, were all seriously lacking in this endeavor.
An advanced reader copy was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. (Sorry guys.)
It took Melissa Cistaro twelve years to write this story, parts of which were extremely painful. Set against the six days she spent at her mother's bedside during her final days, she goes back over their unconventional relationship beginning when her mother abruptly left when Melissa was only three years old, claiming it was "just too much, three children." An event so momentous leaves an imprint, proving even a child so young can retain lifelong memories. Now a mother of three herself, Melissa is a loving and compassionate person who would never think of doing such a thing, holding no residual anger towards her mother with the "desertion gene." She paints a picture of a person who went her own way and did her own thing (a phrase common for that generation in that time), but had the good fortune to have had a husband who, in a reversal of the cliche, raised the kids. He is the hero of this book, although Melissa focusses on her free spirited mother.