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Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir Hardcover – April 1, 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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O'Dell, a member of the "sandwich generation"--made up of boomers taking care of both their own children and their elderly parents--portrays the experience of looking after a mother suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's with brutal honesty and refreshing grace. She peppers the memoir with scenes from her past, including meeting her adoptive parents ("The first time I saw Mama, I was four years old") and the death of her father. With three children and a husband of her own, O'Dell is torn in multiple directions, trying to be mother, daughter, nurse, cook, caregiver, maid, and more to a household of needy people. Mama's neediness is unrelenting, and O'Dell is at once bitter and sorry that her mother cannot be who she was. When the inevitable end comes, O'Dell wonders why she longed for the free time she now finds lonely and empty. A beautiful rendering of a difficult but all-too-common situation, told with plenty of humor, a touch of martyrdom, and much love. Mary Frances Wilkens
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"I loved this book! I not only loved it, I lived it. I laughed, I smiled and shuddered reading this book. O’Dell has captured the essence of every Baby Boomer’s struggle to parent our parents."  — Judy H. Wright, author, Kids, Chores & More


"Those of us in the Baby-boomer generation will resonate with the emotional roller coaster that many of us have or are currently experiencing, or fear having to face with our own aging parents."  —Barry K. Baines, MD, author, Ethical Wills: Putting your Values on Paper


"Carol O'Dell is my new hero. . . . Told in vignettes instead of a linear fashion, O'Dell tells in brutal honesty the horrors and pleasures of exactly what one shoulders when saying, 'Come live with us; I'll take care of you.'"  —Armchair Interviews, Casa Publishing


"Make[s] you laugh and cry, often at the same time, and would be a godsend to current or potential care-givers."  —Times Union, Jacksonville, Florida
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Kunati Inc.; First Edition edition (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160164003X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1601640031
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,094,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Carol O'Dell is my new heroine. I made the promise too: "Look after each other." I haven't truly had to do that yet, with the daily exception of a phone call. After reading Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, I'm not sure that I will ever be able to do what she did. Care for an aging parent long after the time has come when it was too much: physically, emotionally, mentally, and sometimes even spiritually.

Told in vignettes instead of a linear fashion, O'Dell tells in brutal honesty the horrors and pleasures of exactly what one shoulders when saying, "Come live with us; I'll take care of you."

The vignettes are linear as they recount bits of O'Dell's adoption, at age four, by a Southern,fundamentalist couple in their mid-fifties. When O'Dell's mother is diagnosed with Parkinson's and her husband in transferred to Florida, the O'Dells do an addition to their home so that her mother could have her own place, albeit connected to the main structure. Add a heart condition and Alzheimer's, and her mother is not an easy person to care for. Once a vibrant minister, watching the mother shrink to helplessness is more horrifying than any Stephen King novel I have ever read. The way the mother trashes her apartment as diseases attack her body and mind makes what some over-privileged rock star's rampage look like a walk on the beach.

In addition to O'Dell's strength, is the strength her family endures and embraces. They have their moments, but they don't fall apart. I'm in awe of what the O'Dell family endured.
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Format: Hardcover
I struggled between going to sleep at a decent hour last night and reading the book that I started the same afternoon. Carol D. O'Dell's compelling book, Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, easily won my familiar battle between sleeping and reading.

Carol and I just had too many similarities, (and a couple of major differences) not to continue reading this page-turner until the bittersweet end.

Carol, a mother of three, with her husband, invited Carol's mother with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's to move in with their family. Carol, an adopted child with no siblings, attempts to fulfill the childhood promise of never putting her mother in a nursing home. Carol struggles to maintain her roles as wife and mother in her own family and roles of daughter, caregiver and mother to her own mother.

I admire Carol for taking on this challenge. I was curious how she managed to accomplish this without losing herself (she almost lost herself a couple of times, and you'll have to read the book yourself to learn the details).

I know about neurological nightmares: I was diagnosed with Parkinson's eleven years ago, my mother is slowly dying of Lewy Body Dementia, my mother-in-law died with/from Parkinson's three years ago. So I'm quite familiar with the emotional roller coaster that Carol is talking about, and you too will resonate with this topic in the future, if you haven't already had a similar experience.

I enjoy Carol's style of writing with her honesty, sensitivity and humor. Her book is a compilation of her journals as short vignettes that she wrote to help her maintain her own sanity, while caring for her aging mother. She says things in her book that others think and feel but are afraid to express.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book, it made me laugh and it made me cry! I thought of my own mother and although she didn't have to linger on for years with a disease, I could relate to what Carol was going through -- and her family. Sometimes I think we forget how hard it is on the rest of the family beyond the primary caregiver. I love the style Carol wrote the book, in small sections, trying to capture events quickly. I would recommend this book to everyone!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A well written book showing the difficulties of caring for an aging parent while still trying to raise your children, maintain a marriage and having to deal with the decline of a parent's health. It reveals the personal frustrations, both physical and emotional, watching a loved one steadily lose their independence while trying to give them the dignity they need.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book should be read by every woman caring for a mother. I couldn't put it down. I laughed and cried and laughed and cried. It made me feel so good knowing that I am not the only one. It made me realize how much I love my mother despite all the stuff. Thank you!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With unblinking honesty, Carol O'Dell describes the difficult, exhausting job of 24-hour a day caregiving. And with sure, deft strokes, she paints a warm and wrenching portrait of her mother's final months. I was reminded of my favorite passage from The Little Prince, when the child learns that it is the time and trouble we take for another that makes the other so important.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Carol O'Dell, author of her debut memoir Mothering Mother, will make you laugh and cry. Her heartfelt chronicle about caring for her dying mother is an emotional tribute to self-sacrifice and a daughter's unfailing love--an adopted daughter's love, to be more precise.

Carol's mother adopted her late in life and raised her in a strict, religious environment. But it perhaps is their faith that kept them all together until the end. Although she has her faults and may seem somewhat cool at times, Mama did the best she could, and I think that is the realization that the author has come to. And certainly, it is what we all should hope to conclude at the end of our parents' lives.

The author shows us her own strength and her weaknesses, baring her thoughts, her emotions, her decisions and her very soul in a way that takes more courage than many of us would have. A loving daughter with a mother who suffers from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, she takes her mother into her home, working around a husband and kids, and fighting the inevitable. Faced with the deteriorating health of a stubborn mother, Carol is faced with countless tasks in any given day or night, tasks that threaten to destroy her physically, mentally and spiritually. Many of the anecdotes are charming and hilarious, while others are heartbreakingly sad.

I recently bought a copy for my own mother--for Mother's Day--even though my mom is healthy, still working and independent. And while this may seem a strange gift, I felt that Carol O'Dell's book shows a glimmer of light at the end of what most people view as a dark tunnel. She shows that sometimes being prepared is half the battle. Perhaps then, many of us would not feel as though too many things were left undone, unsaid...unforgiven.
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