Harper Lee once said it was a good thing her To Kill A
Mockingbird was published when it was because these days it would have
been categorized young adult instead of adult adult. It's amazing how
many of today's most read worthy novels end up on the YA shelves.
Jenny Downham's Unbecoming, the narratives of three generations of
women, is a prime example of this.
Grandmother Mary was the wild child of an impoverished family.
Of two sisters, she was the one who clashed with their dictator
father. She was also the one who received his gifts of contrition.
Oddly enough, despite his suspicions that she would come to no good
end, he favored her over her obedient sister. In his eyes, she was
the one who had fire.
More recently life has not been kind to her. A dementia patient,
she has just lost the devoted boyfriend who kindly and diligently took
care of her. Told she can no longer live in her home anymore, she has
been taken in by family members who don't seem to want her.
Granddaughter Katie is on the cusp of young adulthood, unsure
what she wants to do with her life. The reliable sister of a brother
with disabilities, she resents her mother's taking her and her
sensible future for granted. She'd like to escape to a big city, full
of possibilities where she could reinvent herself and make her own
Daughter/mother Caroline is the put upon filling for this
generational sandwich. Out of the blue a mother she hasn't seen in
ages, a very demanding person who frequently escapes and must be
tracked down, has become her responsibility as if working and
parenting was not enough. Social services will not have the decency
to take the older woman off her hands. Old forgotten grievances
fester. To add insult to injury, her daughter seems to be on Mary's
side, adding to the drama instead of taking off some of the pressure.
Told in turn from Mary and Katie's perspectives and alternating
between the present and key moments in the past, Unbecoming explores
family dynamics vividly and realistically. It's a good read not only
for its target demographic, but for the generations parenting and
On a personal note, the second UMaine marathon went off without a
hitch. Even Mother Nature cooperated in contrast to last year which
featured pouring rain.
A great big shout out goes out to the runners, my fellow volunteers,
and, of course, Lisa Morin, who was in charge of basically everything.
Sent from my iPod