cover image A Remarkable Mother

A Remarkable Mother

Jimmy Carter, . . Simon & Schuster, $22.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-6245-0

Former president Carter (author of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid as well as many inspirational books) now offers readers the story of his extraordinary mother, Lillian Carter (1898–1983). After laying out some family history, he comes to Lillian's teen years, when she trained as a nurse at the onset of World War I. Health conditions in rural Georgia, especially later, during the Depression, were so dire that nurses were often diagnosticians as well as caregivers. Nursing also brought Lillian close to the black community, building personal bonds that paved the way for later political alliances. After her husband died, Lillian moved from wife and mother to full-fledged “matriarch,” and later volunteered for the Peace Corps and worked in India. Being able to help such needy people was intensely satisfying, although she never got preachy about it. She'd write home, for example, that the Indian doctor she worked with was so “damned good you can't imagine him going to the bathroom.” Modern readers who assume that church-going Southern Baptists don't swear, drink or work to promote birth control will find Lillian an eye-opener. She played an unofficial though vital role as the Carter administration's goodwill ambassador around the world—she almost persuaded our government to let Muhammad Ali bargain with Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini for our hostages taken in 1979. Carter offers wonderful stories about a great woman. B&w photos throughout. (Apr.)