Monday, May 10, 2010

Traveling With Pomegranates, by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

Having just survived another Mother's Day, it seems only fitting to post a review of the Monk females' mother/daughter memoir.

(Please, tell me I'm not the only person whose relationship with her mother was, um, complicated. Tell me I'm not the only one who, on the day society mandates we express our love to our mothers, still wrestles with guilt, anger, and resentment -- and my mother died over twenty years ago. And, as if that's not enough darkness to navigate, there is the extra guilt that comes with realizing that the blessing of my own kids, which feels as though it should bring enough light to cancel out the shadow of the day, doesn't. Which is, of course, not at all a reflection of my great kids, but of the depth of my own mother-daughter struggle.)

Sue Monk Kidd's breakout novel, "The Secret Life of Bees," already feels like a classic, but the novel that followed, "The Mermaid Chair," didn't feel as solid. In "Traveling with Pomegranates," Sue shares the author- stage with her college-age daughter, Anne, as they each dish up the story of "their lives at that moment" during a trip they took together to Greece. Sue, who has finished up a decade's worth of Jungian therapy, is pondering how to continue to feel generative and creative as she enters menopause. Anne, who has just been rejected from a graduate school program for which she figured she would be a shoe-in, grapples with depression. Just like in real life (because this is the story of their real lives), a lot happens at the same time. Anne becomes engaged and begins to plan her wedding. Lots of transitions for both women.

Let me preface my complaint by stating the obvious: I have never been accused of under-thinking an issue. My brain is busy. Too busy. I can turn something over and over in my skull until I'm so dizzy I not only forgot where I started but also where I was supposed to be heading. So it's telling that, even for me, Sue's ruminations were too much. I love memoir, and I love personal essay, but in "Traveling with Pomegranates," Sue goes on forever. Or at least it feels like forever. I appreciate the hard work of introspection that she details, but the gesture of memoir calls for the author to "show" us, through the characters' actions, how she arrives at these insights, not to "tell" us. "Traveling with Pomegranates" gave me lots to think about, but I found myself wanting to shake the Monk women, saying I wanted more of their story, and less of their thoughts.

On a related note, also having trouble with Mother's Day is one of my favorite authors: Anne Lamott. Read of her beef, of how we glorify mother-child love when, more democratically and realistically, this intense love belongs to all of us in all our varied relationships, in the link below....

Why I hate Mother's Day

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