cover image Never Simple: A Memoir

Never Simple: A Memoir

Liz Scheier. Holt, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-82313-7

Scheier, a PW contributor, debuts with a stunning and generous account of living with her mother’s mental illness. “Telling exorbitant lies was easier in the 80s,” she recounts of her New York City childhood. “There was no internet, no way to track down the clues.” And lie her mother, Judith, did—endlessly: about the identity of Scheier’s father; her marital status; and about her daughter’s birth certificate (born at home, Scheier didn’t have one). It wasn’t until college that Scheier found out her mother was a master of deception, a revelation followed by another explosive discovery—that Judith suffered from borderline personality disorder. As Scheier writes, “People suffering from borderline personality disorder live in a world on fire.” In crisp and commanding prose, she traces how, until her mother’s death in 2019, that fire swept through her own life—her childhood enduring Judith’s “all-consuming wrath,” her own suicide attempts as a teen, later selling her eggs to keep her aging mother from becoming homeless. Yet, strikingly, compassion trumps anger: “I loved her smoky cackle and her jokes... her whole-body storytelling,” she writes. “Now that I have my own children, I see how much of her best my mother did.” Readers will find it hard to part with this one. (Mar.)