In this lyrical and deeply moving memoir, one of America’s most revered actresses weaves stories of her adventures and travels with her mother, while reflecting on the beautiful spirit that persists even in the face of her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Marcia Gay Harden knew at a young age that her life would be anything but ordinary. One of five lively children born to two Texas natives—Beverly, a proper Dallas lady, and Thad, a young naval officer—she always had a knack for storytelling, role-playing, and adventure. As a military family, the Hardens moved often, and their travels eventually took them to Yokohama, off the coast of Japan, during the Vietnam War era. It was here that Beverly, amid the many challenges of raising her family abroad, found her own self-expression in ikebana, the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging.
Using the philosophy of ikebana as her starting point, Marcia Gay Harden intertwines the seasons of her mother’s life with her own journey from precocious young girl to budding artist in New York City to Academy Award-winning actress. With a razor-sharp wit, as well as the kind of emotional honesty that has made her performances resonate with audiences worldwide, Marcia captures the joys and losses of life even as her precious mother gracefully strives to maintain her identity while coming to grips with Alzheimer’s disease.
Powerful and incredibly stirring, The Seasons of My Mother illustrates the unforgettable vulnerability and beauty of motherhood, as Marcia does what Beverly can no longer do: she remembers.
The devotion and heartbreak of a loving mother-daughter relationship are captured with affection and precision in this graceful memoir. Harden, an Academy Award winning actress (Pollock), began writing the life story of her mother, Beverly, alongside her own after Beverly's 2011 Alzheimer's diagnosis. Beverly was passionate about ikebana (the ancient art of Japanese flower arrangement), and, in Harden's telling, both women led relatively ordinary lives: they married, had children, found meaning in travel, and took joy in family. She narrates the story by seasons of her mother's life, describing her essence in each one (in spring, "my mother is a brightly ribboned maypole"). Descriptions of ikebana arrangements tell Beverly's story: a military wife with five children who grew into a self-directed woman, her strength is "like a willow branch. Bendable, flexible, yet unbreakable." Harden is optimistic in the face of Alzheimer's: "When all is said and done even without memory what still exists is love." The connection between daughter and mother becomes even richer during "the great migration of age," when "the children become the caregivers." Harden delivers a love letter to her mother, in which the extraordinary elements of her ordinary life shine through.
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So moving and powerful
I loved this from page 1. Ms. Harden shares her world and her life with her mother in such a beautiful way. It was a read full of love and tears and lots of laughs. Time well spent!