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Friday, October 11, 2013

She Left Me the Gun: My Mother's Life Before Me

This memoir has been called one of the best of the year, and that's right on the money in my book. This is She Left Me the Gun: My Mother's Life Before Me by Emma Brockes.

Emma's mother was glamorous and volatile. On occasion in her childhood, Paula would say something cryptic to Emma, hinting that her childhood held more secrets than she would reveal. After her mother's death, Emma, born and bred British, heads back to her mother's native South Africa to dig up the truth about why Paula escaped and never looked back, why Emma barely knew her mother's family save for a few voices on the phone, and why her mother was so distrusting of men, so much so Emma knew as a child that when her mother passed, she would leave her one of the few possessions with which she escaped home--her gun.

Um...ah...so...yeah. WOWZA. This was gripping. It was insane. It was superb. I am at a loss for words in describing Emma's, and in turn, Paula's, story. To face a situation as seemingly insurmountable as Paula's lacks words to properly express, and to fight for what you know is right even when the courts fail is admirable yet frightening. Reading Emma's journey as she seeks answers to questions that she is unsure of how to frame was engrossing and, at times, horrifying. She made me feel as though I was along on the journey with her, although I assume my heart hurt much less than hers.

I don't want to give anything away, and speaking in detail about this story would give so much away that I just don't want to do so. Turning each page was a little like opening one of those joke-like Christmas presents where you must unwrap 15 boxes in descending size until you get to the gem at the bottom, the size of a pebble. Every time we unwrapped one box we were faced with more questions and were given more leads to follow. It was a journey that was cathartic and aching all at once.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.  

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