In this dark gem of a book by the author of The Kiss, a complex mother-daughter relationship precipitates a journey through depression to greater understanding, acceptance, freedom, and love,.
Spare and unflinching, The Mother Knot is Kathryn Harrison’s courageous exploration of her painful feelings about her mother, and of her depression and recovery. Writer, wife, mother of three, Kathryn Harrison finds herself, at age forty-one, wrestling with a black, untamable force that seems to have the power to undermine her sanity and her safety, a darkness that is tied to her relationship with her own mother, dead for many years but no less a haunting presence. Shaken by a family emergency that reveals the fragility of her current happiness, Harrison falls prey to despair and anxiety she believed she’d overcome long before. A relapse of anorexia becomes the tangible reminder of a youth spent trying to achieve the perfection she had hoped would win her mother’s love, and forces her to confront, understand, and ultimately cast out—in startling physical form—the demons within herself. Powerful, insightful, unforgettable, by “a writer of extraordinary gifts” (Tobias Wolff), Kathryn Harrison’s The Mother Knot is a knockout.
Memoirist and novelist Harrison (The Kiss; Seeking Rapture; The Seal Wife) begins with the poignant words, "There's still a bottle of milk in our freezer," as if to warn readers that she's of two minds. How dear, to have saved a last bottle of breast milk after weaning her last child and yet, readers may wonder, what does that imply? To need a tangible reminder of that time when Harrison used her very body to feed her child? Four months after she'd stopped breast-feeding her youngest child, Harrison's 10-year-old son developed life-threatening asthma, just as Harrison herself had developed asthma after her own mother abandoned her to her grandparents. Harrison obsessed over her son's treatment, before turning to the one sure way she'd always known to control an unruly world: imposing starvation on herself. As her anorexia became life-threatening, she worked to accept its cause, her unresolved anger with her now-deceased mother. Ready, finally, to be rid of the burden of this anger, Harrison ordered her mother's body exhumed and cremated, so she could personally scatter her ashes. "t last I was allowing her to go," Harrison concludes (although in the acknowledgments that follow, she speculates that perhaps every writer needs an elusive, "eternally empty vessel" into which "longing... can be poured," such as her mother). This brief, poetic meditation on the exorcism of family pain is sure to find appreciative readers.