cover image Dog Flowers: A Memoir

Dog Flowers: A Memoir

Danielle Geller. One World, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-98482-039-6

In this stirring debut memoir, Geller uses her late mother’s ephemera to recollect her own fractured childhood and reconstructs her mother’s life. Geller’s mother, Laureen “Tweety” Lee, was homeless for the last six months of her life. She’d struggled with alcoholism and was unconscious when Geller paid her a final hospital visit. Eight suitcases held by a grieving “on-again, off-again lover” contained all of Laureen’s possessions. From these, Geller assembled a paper trail of diaries, photos, and letters that traced Laureen’s departure from a Navajo reservation at age 19, the series of low-skill odd jobs she worked, her marriage to a narcissistic man who “loved the sound of his own name,” and her becoming a mother at 22. Geller, raised outside of the poverty of reservation life and the only one in her family to make it into the middle class, returned to the reservation to reconnect with family members and learn about her mother’s past. The author’s accounts of her family members’ struggles with addiction are heartbreaking (“I couldn’t understand why she chose to drink, when drinking had already cost us so much,” Geller writes of her sister), and the narrative is punctuated with haunting photographs and her own childhood drawings. This beautiful memoir is not to be missed. (Jan.)