The Seasons of My Mother

The Seasons of My Mother

by Marcia Gay Harden

Overview: In this lyrical and deeply moving memoir, one of America’s most revered actresses weaves stories of her adventures and travels with her mother, while reflecting on the beautiful spirit that persists even in the face of her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Marcia Gay Harden knew at a young age that her life would be anything but ordinary. One of five lively children born to two Texas natives—Beverly, a proper Dallas lady, and Thad, a young naval officer—she always had a knack for storytelling, role-playing, and adventure. As a military family, the Hardens moved often, and their travels eventually took them to Yokohama, off the coast of Japan, during the Vietnam War era. It was here that Beverly, amid the many challenges of raising her family abroad, found her own self-expression in ikebana, the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging.

Using the philosophy of ikebana as her starting point, Marcia Gay Harden intertwines the seasons of her mother’s life with her own journey from precocious young girl to budding artist in New York City to Academy Award-winning actress. With a razor-sharp wit, as well as the kind of emotional honesty that has made her performances resonate with audiences worldwide, Marcia captures the joys and losses of life even as her precious mother gracefully strives to maintain her identity while coming to grips with Alzheimer’s disease.

Powerful and incredibly stirring, The Seasons of My Mother illustrates the unforgettable vulnerability and beauty of motherhood, as Marcia does what Beverly can no longer do: she remembers.

Deanna Boe (06/23/18): This is a wonderful book! It is a tribute written by Harden to her Mother, who has Alzheimer’s. Perhaps it is because my Mother died of Alzheimer’s it meant even more to me, but I can’t imagine any woman not responding to this book. Am I saying that men would not appreciate this beautifully written book, no, but the appeal is probably stronger for “we” women. It pulls at our heartstrings in a way that we can understand and remember concerning our relationship as daughters to our Mother – the good and the bad. Once more it was a book I knew nothing about when I pulled it off the Atlanta library bookshelf but how thankful I did.

Marcia Gay Harden is better known for her life work of being an actress, not writing books. Obviously she is a lady of many talents since the book flows so beautifully. It holds your attention right to the very end. She has starred on the stage, screen, and television. For instance, “she originated the role of Harper Pitt in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, a performance that earned her a Tony Award nomination.” But, she is probably better known for her winning performance in Pollock, where she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The next time she was nominated for a Tony Award, she won it for Best Actress in God of Courage. I find myself wondering how she found the time to do all of this, raise three children, and travel as much as she did. Her writing makes it seem effortless but the words contained in her writing shows she worked diligently to achieve what she did.

Harden is the middle child of five children, four girls and a boy. Her Father was an officer in the Navy and because of that they lived and traveled all around the world and the United States. Having taught children of military families I realize it is never as easy or as fun as that might seem. The changing of schools every few years means making new friends and learning new rules and regulations. Some of the situations are a plus, like living in Japan or Greece, whereas other places are not. Since this is a book about her Mother Beverly, it, naturally, dwells mainly on her and how she grew to a role in her life she would never have discovered or thought about when she married her husband at the age of 19; especially since she had 5 children in 10 years.

Beverly was a “proper” woman who typified a woman who matured in the Fifties, but came into her own in Japan when she learned how to do the ancient Japanese flower arranging called ikebana. Having tried to learn this while living in Asia, I can tell you it sounds easy, but it is not. This new knowledge led Beverly to establish an International chapter in the United States once she had returned to the U.S. This was not simple to do and had to be approved by the organization in Japan. Harden uses the ikebana to weave her Mother’s story. She does all of this by also interlacing her own life and how it connected to her Mother’s and how thankful she is for her Mother. Harden knows she would not be where she is today without her Mother and how she pushed her to try out for the first play in which she performed. This is not a sad story considering she is telling about her Mother and Alzheimer’s but a celebration of her Mother’s life and what it meant to her. I only wish I could do the same.
Rating: *****

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