Not the Mother I Remember is available in paperback and e-book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
About the Author:
Amber Lea Starfire, whose passion is helping others tell their stories, is the author of Week by Week: A Year’s Worth of Journaling Prompts & Meditations (2011) and co-editor of the anthology, Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the '60s & '70s, released in 2013. A writing teacher and editor, she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and is a member of the California Writers Club in Napa and Santa Rosa, the Story Circle Network, National Association of Memoir Writers, and International Association for Journal Writing. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors. www.writingthroughlife.com.
Book Review of Not the Mother I RememberBy Renee Roberson
I began reading Amber Lea Starfire’s book Not the Mother I Remember on a Saturday afternoon and was already halfway through it before I went to bed that evening. Simply put, I quickly became immersed in the story of Jacqueline “Jackie” Carr, a teacher, writer, and mother of six, and a woman determined to experience all life had to offer, despite how it affected her relationships with her children.
The memoir begins with a preface describing how Starfire and her brothers make the decision to place their mother, suffering from Alzheimer’s, into an assisted-living facility. During the course of cleaning out her mother’s apartment, Starfire opens a storage closet and discovers boxes and boxes of her mother’s writing and correspondence. While elated at what she has found, she is also scarred from years of battling with her complicated mother and knows she is not yet ready to face the story behind who Jackie Carr really was. Only after her mother’s death in 2007 does she begin the arduous process of sifting through the letters and journal entries. It is then that she also officially changes her name from Linda Peterson to Amber Lea Starfire.
I was fascinated by the story of how Carr sold all her belongings after divorcing her husband and took two of her children (including the author, who was 10 years old at the time) on a 365-day world tour that included Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Japan and many other places. But that fascination turned to disbelief as I discovered that Jackie also left her children with virtual strangers at different times throughout that year as she went off on separate adventures of her own. I questioned how a single mother during that time period could balance supporting herself and her children and be actively involved in as many things as she was. (The progressive Jackie also earned her pilot’s license at one point, purchased a small plane, and took Starfire and her brother on a whirlwind summer flying tour).
Starfire describes the anger she felt toward her mother as “the Tar.” She writes, “Sometimes, when she pushed me too hard, it cooled and solidified and shone like brightly polished obsidian, with painfully sharp edges. And during those times we tried to make up with each other, it became watery and brown, weak as tea.”
What makes this book unique is how Starfire layers her own narrative with excerpts from Jackie’s letters and diary entries, which takes the story to a whole different level. She also includes photos, copies of her mother’s typewritten work history, real estate transactions, publishing history, travel excursions and more. Readers can also get a glimpse of an obituary that Jackie wrote for herself in 1998.
The book is best summarized with the following observation from the writings of Jackie Carr:
“I played life as if it were a race with “winning” as the goal. I won: twenty-five years with one man, several mad love affairs, six children and sixteen grandchildren, two advanced degrees, eight books, travel around the world. I wanted to be financially secure. I won that race too. I loved winning just as I loved loving—for the feel of it.”
Not the Mother I Remember is no ordinary memoir, and because of this, I highly recommend it. Starfire’s writing is clear and strong and she tackles this difficult subject matter in a way that is both poignant and cathartic. I think this book will appeal to readers who also enjoyed The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: MoonSkye Publishing (November 2013)
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