Biss doesn’t detail the specific efforts of the mothers with whom she spoke, but she does address the chilling consequences. “When I asked a friend how she would feel if her child contracted an infectious disease and did not suffer from it but passed it to someone more vulnerable who would suffer, she looked at me in surprise. She had not, she told me, considered that possibility,” she writes.
A woman in a mental institution wants to walk into the ocean. Another is desperate to marry off her daughter, just as her own mother was desperate to marry her off. Several are stuck in loveless marriages. These women—all characters in Fayeza Hasanat’s book—feel the weight of the patriarchy more than most. … they are trapped by forces greater than themselves and Hasanat paints heartbreaking portraits of their hopeless lives.
Lily and Marvena are an odd couple on the surface. Lily has a comfortable lifestyle, is shapely and pretty, and has been formally educated. In contrast, Marvena lives in a shack and is scrawny with a ruddy face and a missing tooth. As Lily and Marvena get to know and trust each other, they discover what they have in common.
Over and over, she shares the inherent trauma of being raised by such an emotionally unstable woman. Depression, grief, insecurity, disapproval—pick your poison. Worse is the magnetic pull her mother has on her despite the emotional chaos she creates. Gornick paints a picture of herself as incapable of loosening the choke hold her mother’s misery has on her. She is an addict and her mother is the drug.
That day, Brooks, a self-proclaimed “uncritical consumer of anxiety,” was forced to look at American parenting culture through a whole new lens when she was arrested for leaving her four-year-old son alone in a locked car. What happened to her in the parking lot of a Virginia Target store inspired Brooks’s research into the modern culture of fear.
Crystal Condakes Karlberg
This collection is a metaphor for parenting. You love but you’re not sure why. You laugh, yet are sad at the same time. You feel and think about things you never considered before. Hard Child does not advertise itself to mothers, but it speaks a difficult truth about motherhood that usually goes unsaid. The author admits she was a hard child. It shouldn’t be surprising that her book is, too.
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