The Barnes & Noble Review
You must breastfeed your infant for at least one year. Never, never sleep with your child. Go back to work as soon as possible. Don't work: Stay at home.
If your bookshelves are already heavy with volumes spouting so much dogmatic and alienating advice that you cannot bear to read them, and you know that you already have a unique and perfectly decent parenting style, you will enjoy THE MOTHER TRIP.
Ariel Gore's new book affirms, through the telling of her own journey into motherhood, that you can be quirky and original, follow your own wisdom, pursue your dreams, and mother well. In a series of vignettes of varying length an ideal structure for tired and busy parents she weaves together her life experiences with work from other writers and bits of historical and political analysis, eschewing society's recipes for the "best way" to raise children.
"Take a moment to imagine the perfect mother," she instructs her readers in the book's early pages. Then she gently turns the notion on its head. "No, wait. Take a moment to look in the mirror. She is you."
Gore's writing resonates with simplicity and truth. It is often very funny. And it can be hauntingly beautiful, as in this description of her first sleepless night with her newborn daughter. "By first glassy blue morning light, we had reached the shore of a strange island," she writes. "The dark ravens that had flown politely back and forth outside our window all through my labor were perched at the end of our lifeboat. And the church bells sounded once more, but this time endlessly, marking no time,justsounding and sounding and sounding, shaking the whole island with their vibrations and causing great waves to swell up in the sea."
Gore became a mother at 19 while traveling in Europe with a boyfriend, and while she dealt with the financial, emotional, and even custodial repercussions for years after, she strongly believes that children can adapt to all kinds of situations, including hers. While some readers may not relate to Gore's lifestyle she unapologetically describes her teen pregnancy, struggle through graduate school while on welfare, and a series of lovers they may still appreciate her basic message: Good mothering can be done in a multitude of ways. It is up to each individual to find her own path, Gore says, to pursue her own interests and goals, all while mothering "soulfully."
While not offering any how-tos on parenting, Gore does discuss the vital need for mothers to replenish the energy sapped in caring for others. This can be done in the tiniest spaces between work and "homecare," just before the sun (and baby) rise, or during an extravagant few days off. It is, she asserts, a matter of survival.
She also delves into the often-taboo subject of depression, citing a moving incident that occurred on the web site she founded, hipmama.com. In response to a mother's posting that she was seriously considering suicide, others immediately rallied around to offer support. The strength of this virtual community emphasizes Gore's belief that while motherhood can take many forms we cannot see whether those online are wearing aprons, pantsuits or hard hats it is such a profound experience that it can pull together complete strangers in an all-night effort to save a life.
"We knew nothing about this woman's parenting," Gore writes. "We knew virtually nothing about her life. But we saw her through."
THE MOTHER TRIP may help others through some difficult times, and it offers all a refreshing take on parenting as an individually determined and spiritually fulfilling voyage. Sara Kandler>