We read this for our Women’s Institute book group.
I feel an element of guilt for not warming to this book. It is obviously a wonderful tribute to a woman that achieved so much, reached so many, and made a real impact on the world around her. She touched those within her own family, her community and into the wider world. I wouldn’t want my feelings about the book to take away from the honour the author is paying to his mother, it is all well deserved. She was a dynamite lady, a force for good and left an amazing legacy. It is really hard to write a luke warm review about a book telling the story of one of life’s great ‘everyday’ people.
Yet, I didn’t warm. I have been trying to pull apart why it is that I have been feeling this way, and I have pinpointed a couple of areas.
* Some books inspire me to be better and to do better. I was left feeling like I could never be enough after reading this book. Which I am sure was not the author’s intent at all.
* I disagreed with some of the mother’s opinions. One specifically was that women who are educated should not stay home to raise children, but should use the privilege that education has offered them to change the world around them. I have no doubt that the education women receive DOES affect the world around them, whether they are trail blazing in a career or raising children. No education is wasted education IF those who are using it, inspire/help/evoke change for the better with it. What difference does it matter if the domain is the home or job?
* I thought the idea of reading and sharing books together to be lovely, however, I was struck that all manner of topics could be discussed within the context of reviewing a book, but more personal, and authentic topics seemed to get skirted around (how family members felt about her impending death for instance, or the chapter on the author’s coming out). Personally, I want what I read to change me. To effect my relationships with those I love first and to enable me and empower me to press into authenticity, and have those deep conversations about US too, not just the world, not just about ideas and opinions. But US and our relationship, how we can do better with each other? To help us talk about our hard stuff.
I am glad I read this book, but perhaps not for the reasons that the author would have intended. It made me realise that sometimes it is the small things we do, the conversations we have about our hurts with our children or our failings, or we are brave enough to share a struggle rather than a victory. These are the important topics for me, and I want what I read to help me find a way through that first and foremost. I don’t want contrived topics of conversation, I want to hear the deep the messy, the chaotic the struggle, so that together even when there is nothing we can do to change the outcome we know each other’s hearts and can sing it back.
This was one amazing woman, but I know that I could never live up to being someone like that, it is not my calling.
And I am ok with that.
I am happy to celebrate her victories and champion her life. But I am also going to champion the educated/uneducated parent at home up to their arm pits in nappy rash and baby food mush trying to do the best they can do to impact their world as well.