cover image The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers

The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers

Marcia Gay Harden. Atria, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3570-5

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. [em](May) [/em]