cover image WISHING FOR SNOW: A Memoir


Minrose Gwin, . . Louisiana State Univ., $24.95 (232pp) ISBN 978-0-8071-2928-9

"My mother was crazy. My mother went crazy. I'm not sure which of these statements is true; perhaps both are," Gwin writes. Weaving together childhood diary entries, old letters and poems, Gwin, an English professor at Purdue, traces her mother's unraveling from a young parent to an emotionally unstable, even dangerous, older woman. Erin Taylor hailed from a well-to-do Mississippi family with skeletons in the closet: the suicides of Gwin's great-grandfather and great-aunt. "Erin Taylor was considered eccentric and difficult to get along with by people who knew her well and people who had known her in passing," Gwin notes. As Erin's mental illness progressed, she suffered from anorexia, prescription drug abuse and other irrational behaviors, including leaving raw meat out to rot. After Erin's death from ovarian cancer, Gwin tries to piece together why her mother was so disturbed. Gwin explicates her relationship with her mother and dissects her decline through innumerable recollections. She doesn't search out a particular moment, a recapitulating event or a single theory of her mother's disease. Instead, she stumbles over her life's interactions with Erin, spending a good deal of time exorcising her guilt over twice committing her mother to psychiatric hospitals. Though Gwin's memoir is a deeply personal account of dealing with mental illness, she fails to convey anything larger, getting caught up in her mother's barbs and behavior. The book opens with a fairly detailed family history, but living relatives—including Gwin's siblings—are noticeably absent from the story, making it less full than it might have been. (Mar.)