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THE MOTHER KNOT: A Memoir

Kathryn Harrison, Author
Kathryn Harrison, Author . Random $19.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6191-4
Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-8129-7150-7
Open Ebook - 96 pages - 978-0-307-53859-8
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-20735-6
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Memoirist and novelist Harrison (The Kiss ; Seeking Rapture ; The Seal Wife ) begins with the poignant words, "There's still a bottle of [breast] 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. "[A]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. Agent, Amanda Urban. (On sale June 1)

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