cover image Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir in Pieces

Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir in Pieces

Dawn Davies. Flatiron, $24.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-13370-0

This powerful debut collection of essays follows Davies from an unsettled childhood (her parents relocated often and divorced when she was 13) to a fulfilling life as a writer, wife, and mother. A number of these essays were previously published in literary journals; combined here, they portray a sensitive yet fierce woman who battles anxiety and rises from the despair of a failed marriage to find happiness with a second husband in a blended family (three kids from hers, two from his previous marriage). The opening piece, “Night Swim,” sparkles with vivid descriptions of Davies’s two young, carefree daughters swimming, even as Davies imagines the complications of life that they will face as they get older. “Keeping the Faith,” in which Davies details an accident she once witnessed, is startling, tragic, and ultimately redemptive. The strongest piece is the title essay, “Mothers of Sparta,” in which Davies tells of the struggles she encountered raising her son, who is autistic and sociopathic. Not all of the pieces are equally powerful: an essay on men she “would have” slept with seems both quirky and misplaced (Ben Carson makes the cut, as does Hermann Rorschach), but the author’s observations on parenting are spot-on (once you have kids you “must tiptoe through the rest of your life”). Whether perceptively exploring joy or anguish, Davis digs deeply.[em] (Jan.) [/em]