I loved Emmons’ first novel “Prayers and Lies” reviewed in this blog earlier. I had great hopes that “The Sometimes Daughter” would be just as enjoyable. There were moments; the author can definitely tell a story. This just wasn’t a story I wanted to hear.
Full disclosure: I was raised by a woman who placed her own needs above her children. By 1970 when I was 5, she was on her third marriage. That marriage resulted in the fracturing of the family, with one child remaining in our hometown of Chicago, one hitting the road and not seen again for 13 years, and two of us dragged to our step-father’s home in Jersey. I cannot begin in this blog to explain to you the damages four children experienced by every poor decision she made. As an adult, I was swimming upstream to learn how to be a wife and (hopefully) good mom to break this cycle. I will celebrate 23 years of marriage to my only husband in September, so I hope my mother’s marriage/parenting legacy stopped with her.
But, you came here for a book review, right? This book is about a child born to a hippie, drug using, selfish, free spirited woman. Born at Woodstock and sickeningly named Sweet Judy Blue Eyes, the child starts her life in chaos, and this story shows a child filled with angst, upset, fear, and a mother who pops in and out of her life like a Jack-in-the-Box.
The positives for Judy are a dad and paternal grandparents who provide her the stability and safety of a good home, and unconditional love. My heart broke as she spoke of her concerns that she was the cause of Mom leaving, she was the reason Mom disappeared and lived a life of dangers such as a brief involvement in Jim Jones’ People’s Temple. I bore these same feelings of guilt regarding my mother’s second divorce. After all, I was the last child. The marriage lasted until my birth and the divorce took place when I was just 3.
I found this book to be the peeling off of a band-aid on what I thought was my own heeled wound. It also brought me sadness as a parent. I will NEVER understand not choosing your children over your own needs when they are in your care. Many will say the ending was uplifting and resolved the mother/daughter crisis. For me, the ending was sad in that despite all the good efforts of Dad, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes was too much like her own mother.