The Life and Death of My Mother

Allen Wheelis, Author W. W. Norton & Company $17.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-393-03067-9
From the nursing home bed where his mother lay dying at the age of 100, San Francisco psychiatrist Wheelis ( The Path Not Taken ) looks back over the intense and, for him, often painful relationship they shared for his more than 70 years. Recalling how he, then a five-year-old, responded to her as she nursed his father through the grim final stages of TB and, later, as she struggled to make a life for him and his sister as an untrained schoolteacher in Texas, Wheelis focuses an unflinching eye on the powerful, subtly erotic dependency that she developed on him. As a young man, he cared for her through two serious illnesses and remained, married and with a family of his own, a loving and attentive son for all the decades that followed. Yet his discomfort with her adulation continued unabated and runs parallel to his awareness of his own mortality and, similarly, to the embellished image from his youth of a pigeon, its feet sadistically chopped off, forced to fly on and on because it cannot land. Wheelis's struggle to understand the place in his life of this woman--daughter, wife and mother of physicians--and the complex web of feelings she evokes in him yields a spare, unromanticized tale--compassionate, disturbing and masterfully told. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/03/1992
Release date: 02/01/1992
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