Friday, October 7, 2016

For the Rest of Her Life

Book: For the Rest of her Life - Laura Moriarty

Members present: Christy, Linda, Karin, Sharon

Venue: Veranda Bistro

Discussion highlights:

Everyone liked the book, but everyone (except me) liked "Defending Jacob" better. Linda felt sorry for Leigh because of her insecurity as a parent as a result of her mother abandoning her at 16. Sharon pointed out that the mother seemed envious of her daughter--how easy her life was, her popularity, her confidence. I thought it was interesting that the mother and daughter both perceived the other person as being critical of them when in reality both of them wanted to be loved by the other. I particularly liked the line where the daughter tells her mom that if she had known that if killing someone would make her mom like her she would have done it a long time ago. Karin added that many relationships are ultimately destroyed because people don't communicate how they really feel.

We also discussed the different responses for what the consequences should be for the daughter. That dad wanted her to go through it with as few consequences as possible so that she could start college and play soccer. The mother wanted her to suffer some consequence which seemed to border on wanting her daughter to be punished. Linda pointed out that this made the dad question whether she wanted the best for her daughter. We discussed how, although the daughter felt the same way as the mother, the mother seemed oblivious of this because she was so focused on the daughter liked her. We all felt that her decision not to postpone college was a good one because it would have been difficult to focus on the typical transitional struggles when you've gone through something traumatic.

Linda brought up Leigh's relationship with her own mother--particularly her decision to abandon her at 16 because she never had a life of her own. How the daughter was so hungry for love that she liked the attention from sketchy guys. I brought up how she was so desperate for help that she slept with someone to get him to help her move her bed. Sharon brought up how she tried to convey an air of confidence about this, even though this was her first sexual experience and she was obviously vulnerable to sexual exploitation. We discussed her conversation with her daughter about sex and how it revealed the mom's own insecurities and her daughter's confidence in herself. Sharon thought the daughter might have been lying about how secure she felt, but I thought the daughter was surprisingly emotionally mature for her age and probably did feel like she wouldn't have sex unless she wanted to, which made the mom feel inferior.

We also discussed the difference between Leigh and her sister Pam's response to their mother's "parenting." Although Leigh's life turned out well, she struggled with self-confidence and was sensitive to rejection and abandonment. Pam, on the other hand, had more compassion for the mom and did not hold her failings as a mother against her, even though her life sucked. I thought that highlighted how a traumatic upbringing could impact a person's interpersonal relationships even if the person looked "normal" on the outside.

We also discussed Bethany's mother's attack on the daughter. Linda thought it was good that Leigh was eventually able to connect with the mother in a meaningful way--after stalking her--and the daughter and Bethany were able to correspond, as well. Karin brought up how the mother needed some target, even though they were really all victims. There was a quote in the book about this--how there were no victors, only casualties.

We discussed the dad's relationship with the son and how it was similar to the mother's relationship with her daughter in that they didn't share the same interests and had trouble relating to one another. But we all though it was good that the father eventually made an effort to figure out what his son's interests were so that they could have a connection. I liked the quote about how parents try to give their children what they needed, but their children might need something completely different. Linda liked the quote about how, ideally, parenting is like sending the care packages that Leigh sent her daughter--you put things in it and see if it's what she needs, and if it's not, you change the next care box accordingly.

Next book: 

Our next book is Queen of the Court, by Melanie Howard and Andrea Leidolf. Karin gets extra credit for already having noted this from the last blog post and reading ahead of the syllabus. Linda has agreed to host. Thanks, Shea, for the suggestion!