By Susanna Sonnenberg
288 pages. Scribner
It is impossible to overestimate the size, scope, and impact of our relationship with our mothers, difficult to measure the imprint, in the shape of desires, fears, and patterns that live on in our psyches in our mother's name. When she dies, we are simultaneously untethered and disbelieving. As Susanna Sonnenberg writes in Her Last Death (Scribner), one of two new memoirs that examine this complicated loss from very different angles, "For the two weeks after my mother's wreck I walked around saying, 'She won't die.' My mother invented the waters, sky, and terrain; she couldn't leave them."
"When my mother was dying," Sonnenberg admits here, "I didn't go [to her]. I ask every day, Is this right? Like love or grief the decision is stitched into me. It is me, and it beats at me with a 'Yes, but.'" This uncertainty lies at the heart of a brave account of growing up with a glamorous, charismatic, compulsively lying and drug-addicted mother. With an unflinching eye and a winning dispassion, Sonnenberg narrates her wildly unpredictable childhood, as well as her own reinvented journey down her mother's dangerous path. Scene after scene recounts life with a woman who could charm the pants off any man, and did—never mind that it was her daughter's high school boyfriend; a woman who could commit crime after crime against basic human decency (let alone motherhood) and still be able to win back her daughter's love.