I initially wanted to read this book because I had heard so many great things about it from a handful of bloggers whom I trusted. I was also intrigued because memoirs are always my cup of tea and there was a touch of the mysterious and unfamiliar about it. When I picked it up, I knew very little about what was lurking within the pages but quickly became engrossed and sat and devoured this little memoir about a woman and man whose struggle is not only moving but potent as well. It was a story steeped in sadness and longing, and one that made me feel intense emotions of anger, frustration, and ultimately, betrayal. For such a short book, it packed an intense emotional punch, and while there was definitely an abundance of grief and heartache, there was also a quiet undercurrent of compassion and love sewing the disparate patches of the story together.
Theresa is a free spirit. She has had to be, living with a family that is as untraditional as it gets. Life seems to have been overwhelming to her from an early age, and her mother’s inattention is something she repeatedly flashes back to as she quickly jumps from engagement to marriage to motherhood. It would be unrealistic for Theresa not to harbor resentment towards her mother, but in a truly enlightened way, Theresa never makes the mistakes that her mother did when embarking upon her own life as a wife and mother. Though she and Adrian have their fair share of problems, Theresa feels honor and duty bound to quash the disruptions between them, and though her marriage is never what anyone would call picture perfect, there is a comfort and ease between the Theresa and her husband that is hard won and generously appreciated.
Adrian’s mother is not as sympathetic of a character. She is ill-tempered and mean even at the best of times. It's no secret that she thinks Adrian can do better in his choice of a mate and this is a fact that she brandishes in front of her daughter-in-law's face through her malicious actions and cruel words. Worse still is the unyielding pressure that she puts on her son in relation to the farm. To produce the best apples, dangerous and harmful chemicals are used in the production of the crops. The chemical treatments are non-negotiable in her eyes, and in her relentless pursuit of Adrian’s eventual inheritance of the farm, she manages to drive a wedge between not only herself and her son, but also between Adrian and Theresa. She is never passive and yielding, choosing instead to be domineering and resistive time and time again, not only to Adrian and Theresa’s ideas, but to their familial relationships as well.
After many years, things begin to break down and fall apart, not only on the farm but with personal matters as well. In these hard times, Theresa, Adrian and their children rally round and create an insular little world that no one can invade. But again and again tragedy strikes, culminating in a vicious standoff between Theresa and her mother-in-law. It was a story that broke my heart in not only its intimations but in its repercussions. As basic respect and decency break down, the narrative becomes heartbreaking and deeply personal. Though the book is steeped in sadness and poignancy, there were also spellbinding moments of beauty and intimacy traced within the darker framework of tragedy.
This was an eye-opening read for me, and because of the author’s ability to be particularly candid and transparent, it was an engrossing read that had me reaching for the tissues over and over again. The story manages to encapsulate a span of many years within a small package, but it was a very potent package indeed. Readers of memoirs would do well to search out this amazing story of resilience, inner strength and emotional fortitude. A very worthy read and highly recommended.