Saturday, December 24, 2011

BUY THIS BOOK: Coping With Transition: Men, Motherhood, Money and Magic

Transitions. Everyone goes through them, but even when they lead to something wonderful like marriage to the one you love or the welcomed birth of a child, they can be unsettling. Coping With Transition, Men, Motherhood, Money and Magic, edited by Susan Briggs Wright, is a memorable collection of memoirs from women who were born between 1935 and 1960. It was a pivotal era for women, a time when transitions, especially difficult ones, were seldom discussed. Women’s lives, family life, life in general was supposed to resemble the images Norman Rockwell captured on the pretty and serene covers he did for the Saturday Evening Post. The reality was often far different. Messier. Confusing.

Rules were numerous. Young women were cautioned to adhere to certain standards. “My father was strict about who I could go out with,” relates Suzanne Kerr in her memoir titled, Waiting For Marriage, Sex, and My Mother’s Life (In That Order). Suzanne’s dad went on to tell her as she was leaving the nest for college in September of 1962, that if he ever heard of her going to a boy’s apartment, he’d jerk her out of school. (Can you imagine handing down such a mandate to your daughter today?!) Her mother said she should marry a professional man, and oh yes, she should certainly be a virgin. Suzanne chronicles what becomes a long and circuitous path to the altar in a voice that mixes elements of wry humor and rueful irony.  And honesty. It’s the honesty and trueness of each voice in the collection that makes it such a compelling read.

Why do I not remember days, only moments? How do I start … with the end of my life? So begins Sue Jacobson’s haunting memoir, Why Have I Survived You? in which she tells of the loss of a beloved daughter. Donna Siegel begins her memoir, Crossing the Rubicon, with this notable line: Growing into who you are genetically destined to be can cause a lot of problems. Donna was married at 19 and divorced after a lifetime. Somewhere she found the courage to reenter school, to earn her master’s degree, but even better, she lives comfortably now with life’s questions, its mystery. In A Closet: Memories, Meaning, and Sometimes Magic, Mel Gallagher, confides that her closet (of all curious and imaginative places!) and all that it contains has given her insights into her life. Leslie McManis begins her short essay, Growing Up Outside, with this intriguing line: My mother was a forties beauty queen, and then renders the poignant details of an injured childhood, but the accent is on survivorship, not victimhood. What touches a chord throughout this collection is the amount of courage and resilience that was and is still demonstrated by this remarkable group of women. The collection is diverse, covering topics from a husband’s impending retirement to the pursuit of international adoption—at the age of forty-nine, no less. Talk about courage. And there’s long, intimate and wise talk about seizing love and the moment—at sixty-eight from Mary Margaret Hansen. No, she isn’t thirty-five, but she’s still very full of life with so much to do, to share and contribute as you will find out when you read her witty and smart memoir Seven Scenes From Shared Space.

Coping With Transition, Men, Motherhood, Money and Magic is truly a book for women of all ages, and the men who want to understand them—who dare to try! Reading it is like sitting down to have an intimate chat with dear friends and the conversation is one that leaves you feeling satisfied and hopeful. It’s life affirming. It would be great to see this collection digitized for e-readers. It’s perfect for reading on the go. A perfect delight all the way around.


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