cover image Ordinary Paradise: A Memoir

Ordinary Paradise: A Memoir

Laura Furman. Winedale Publishing, $22.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-9657468-4-7

In this sometimes haunting memoir, novelist Furman (Tuxedo Park) describes the first 13 years of a life geographically divided between an apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side and a summer house in New Jersey and temporally bifurcated by her mother's death when she was just 13. Furman evokes the life of a relatively happy child who, in addition to her two sisters, lived with her outgoing, nurturing mother, Minnie, and her responsible but reclusive father, Sylvan, who liked to be left alone to paint when he returned home from work. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1958, Minnie took less than a year to die, during which time neither parent ever mentioned the seriousness of her condition to their children. Stricken by an intense grief that she could not express to her emotionally distant father, Furman repressed her feelings about her mother's death and her father's remarriage. Later, when she cut herself with a razor in a plea for attention, Sylvan had her admitted to a mental hospital where she was treated with thorazine. Upon her release Furman began writing, but it was only when she moved to Texas and met her husband-to-be (with whom she adopted a son) that she was able to come to terms with her mother's death. Although moving, the writing can be a bit awkward (""I caught myself and truncated the sensation,"" or on the same page, ""That summer kissing began, full of saliva and juicy lips""). Also, because Furman's grandmother and mother both died of ovarian cancer, she elected to have her healthy ovaries removed. Greater exposition of this unusual decision would have made for a more complete portrait of Furman's maternal legacy. Author tour. (Sept.)