Missing Mom, Joyce Carol Oates, HarperCollins, 2005, 434 pp
Summary from Goodreads: Nikki Eaton, single, thirty-one, sexually liberated, and economically self-supporting, has never particularly thought of herself as a daughter. Yet, following the unexpected loss of her mother, she undergoes a remarkable transformation during a tumultuous year that brings stunning horror, sorrow, illumination, wisdom, and even—from an unexpected source—a nurturing love.
I lost my mom in 2009. She and I were mostly at odds for many years. Somewhere in my 40s we began to reconcile. She stopped being so critical of me and I began to see her good points. Near the end of her life she needed 24 hour care and wished to remain at home. I honored that wish, left my job, husband, and home, and so spent the last three months of her life by her side. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. ( My wonderful husband was supportive of my choice.)
So I related to Missing Mom in a big way. Two sisters must deal with their widowed mother's gruesome death. They have never gotten along but it is the rebellious, free-spirited daughter who comes to stay at the family home, sort through the relics of the past, and deal with her loss.
In the process, she learns that her apparently sainted mother had a secret and tragic past. The woman who she knew as mom was practically a created personality who bore little resemblance to the child and teenager she had been before marriage. Learning the truth about both their parents' lives, the sisters change and find their own true selves.
I found this book somehow lighter than most of the novels I have read by JCO. Of course, lighter for her is still dark compared to many other authors, but there is a tenderness she does not usually show. I wondered about her relationship with her own parents.
It was easy to read, it made me laugh and cry, and I recommend it for female readers who have lost their mom, especially moms with whom they have had their troubles.
(Missing Mom is available in paperback on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)