Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Release Spotlight: Live Through This

Live Through This: A Mother's Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love
By Debra Gwartney

In Live Through This, memoirist Debra Gwartney ventures into the dark and dangerous world of street life to reclaim her daughters. Her voice resounds with honesty and self-reflection as she recalls the trials that changed her own life as well as and her daughters’.

After separating from her husband and moving her four daughters “back home” to the Northwest, Gwartney begins to see the changes affecting her two oldest for the worst. Her oldest daughter, Amanda, picks up some scary habits, including self-mutilation, drugs, and alcohol, while her daughter Stephanie becomes Amanda’s follower. The two girls claim they are there for each other and seem to have an inextricable bond that keeps them together, for better or worse.

That same bond leads Stephanie to run away with her older sister when Amanda gets kicked out of school for arson. Over the course of a few years, the two girls run many times, to the despair of their mother. With the help of her ex-husband and their families and friends, Gwartney puts them into counseling, rehabilitation, a wilderness therapy program, and even foster care in an effort to get them help and bring them home. Yet, despite attempts by their entire family, the girls seem to be getting farther and farther away.

After they finally break away from each other, the sisters begin to make their long, separate journeys home. Amanda comes home first after a heroin overdose; however, Stephanie is nowhere to be found for a long period with no contact with her family. The family waits on pins and needles, while the story drags on in anticipation. Will Stephanie ever come home? And if she does, can Gwartney repair the damage that has been done to her family and her relationship with her daughters—or will they run away again, this time forever?

Gwartney captures the struggle of a single mother trying to recover her lost teenagers as well as keep her family together through divorce and the many changes that come with it. Her ability to look back on her own actions with objectivity and fairness, without blame, lends the story a startling truthfulness. Her honesty of her own actions makes her a trustworthy narrator. She writes:

I knew the cutting was more than a release. And yet I didn’t seek out another therapist, another expert, who might give me a different opinion or offer a solution. I simply told myself that my daughter would get past this soon. Then it was too late.

The story drags on a bit near the end during a period of time in which the story in real life was also stagnant; yet, the reader is rewarded with an ending filled with stunning realizations and emotional insight. By the end of the story, the reader feels an unshakable bond with Gwartney’s family; her fierce love keeps them trudging through the hard times.

Warning: Keep tissues on hand—it will be hard not to cry during this book.

Review by Leah Gibson-Blackfeather, Indigo Editing & Publications, LLC

ISBN: 978-0-5470-5447-6
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Pub Date: February 2009
Hardcover: $24.00

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