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The Habit [Kindle Edition]

Susan Morse
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

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Book Description

There is an unmistakable gleam in Ma’s eye, and her absolute composure both appalls me and rips my heart from its root. I burst into tears. The gauntlet is thrown.


From the time she was conceived, Susan Morse was her mother’s “special” child. For Susan, special translated into becoming her incorrigible mother’s frazzled caretaker, a role that continued into adulthood. Now she finds herself as part of the sandwich generation, responsible for a woman whose eighty-five years have been single-mindedly devoted to identifying The Answer To Everything. And, this week’s Answer looks like it may be the real thing.

Susan’s mother is becoming a nun.

Mother Brigid is opinionated and discerning (Don’t call them trash cans. They’re scrap baskets!), feisty and dogmatic (Stop signs and No Parking zones are installed bybureaucratic pencil pushers with nothing better to do), a brilliant artist (truly, a saving grace), and predictably unpredictable, recently demonstrated by her decision to convert to Orthodox Christianity and join its holy order. Dressed in full nun regalia, she might be mistaken for a Taliban bigwig. But just as Mother Brigid makes her debut at church, a debilitating accident puts her in a rehab center hours from Susan’s home, where Susan’s already up to her neck juggling three teenagers, hot flashes, a dog, two cats, and a husband whose work pulls him away from the family for months at a time. Now Susan gets to find out if it’s less exhausting to be at her mother’s beck and call from one hundred miles away or one hundred feet. And she’s beginning to suspect that the things she always thought she knew about her mother were only the tip of a wonderfully singular iceberg.

In this fresh, funny, utterly irresistible memoir, Susan Morse offers readers a look at a mother-daughter relationship that is both universal and unique. For anyone who’s wondered how they made it through their childhood with their sanity intact, for every multitasking woman coping simultaneously with parents and children, for those of us who love our parents come hell or high water (because we just can’t help it), Susan Morse’s story is surprising, reassuring, and laugh-out-loud funny. A beguiling journey of love, forbearance, and self-discovery, The Habit introduces two unforgettable women you’ll be glad to know—from a safe distance.


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Susan’s epic effort to differentiate herself from the consuming power of this unique woman is every woman’s struggle, but writ large, crazy, and funny.” —Rosanne Cash, author of Composed 

“Susan Morse writes in a dream state, and The Habit is funny and moving and wise. After reading it, you'll see Susan’s mother in a whole new way, and your own mother, too.” —Michael Bamberger, author of The Swinger

“In her portrait of her hilarious and heroic struggle with an almost impossiblemother, Susan Morse has captured the mother-daughter paradox like no one else in recent memory.” —Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, former editor of the New York Times Book Review
 
“Morse’s caustic, changeable, demanding, smarty-pants mother is a late-life Sharon Sedaris, had Sharon Sedaris lived and become an Orthodox Christian nun in her eighties, and Morse herself is a crackerjack guide.” —Cynthia Kaplan, author of Why I’m Like This
 
“A page-turning, humorous account of one woman’s experience during her difficult mother’s turbulent journey into old age. . . . A lively testament to a complicated though loving mother-daughter relationship.” —Kirkus Reviews
 
“A sometimes searing, often hilarious account of a mother-daughter relationship Hallmark probably doesn't have a card for.” —Ellen Gray, Philadelphia Daily News

About the Author

Susan Morse was educated at Williams College and has worked as an actress in L.A. and New York. She now lives in Philadelphia with her husband, David, and their three children. She has edited fiction, although this book is nonfiction. Mostly. She promises

Product Details

  • File Size: 4612 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (November 8, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005TUN1T8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,924 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rehabilitating November 26, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a memoir of a woman trying to meet the needs (and wants) of her family: daughter in college, private-school twin sons, actor husband and the centerpiece, her 85 year-old mother, artist and recently converted orthodox Christian nun. When her mother becomes ill, Susan goes into overdrive, struggling with the doctor's office staff, the hospital, the surgeon, the nurses, and the home health aide. Frank, funny and charming, this is a true life story, uplifting to anyone with an HMO's phone number on their speed-dial.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Couldn't stop laughing when I read this book and by the end I was crying. My own mother is dead but if yours is still alive you should first read the book and then give it to her to read. Then, you should either buy the book and send it, as a present, to all your siblings or tell them to buy it for themselves. (The same advice applies for your adult children.) Why? Because Susan Morse writes with absolute honesty about how difficult her mother was and can still be. Her mother was an artist and a portrait painter before she became an Orthodox nun. Susan writes the way a great portrait painter paints: she gives us all the details around the person that truly matter and then puts the person right smack in the middle of that world for us to look at and to understand. Beyond that, she also lets us know that she, the writer, loves and admires her subject. Last, but not least, Morse allows us to see her, the writer-daughter, as someone who is as challenging, flawed, demanding, compassionate and persistent an artist as is her mother!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book March 21, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Habit, by Susan Morse is unusual, in
that its a combination of marvelous humor,and a certain sadness involved in the relationship between an eccentric,aging mother and her care-giving daughter, Susan. Its beautifully written,and very,very,very funny. A wonderful book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read! January 6, 2012
Format:Paperback
Reading "The Habit" was like sitting at a cozy café with a good friend, drinking coffee, sharing our souls and lives and laughing our asses off. The book begins and ends within the span of one year, but Susan Morse's narrative on her life, and that of her mother's, covers 150+ years, which gives this very personal account its heart and soul. It was difficult to put "The Habit" down to eat, sleep and care for my family. Ms. Morse's writing style is reminiscent of David Sedaris and Nora Ephron, yet her voice is a unique and strong one.

I read "The Habit" nine months after my mother died. I did not have a good relationship with her so I was initially hesitant about reading Ms. Morse's chronicle of her relationship with her mother. My hesitation was unfounded and reading "The Habit" turned out to be surprisingly cathartic. The mother-daughter relationship envy that I anticipated never surfaced. In fact, instead of feeling sad and angry about what I didn't have with my own mother, I laughed and cried (good crying) and celebrated with Ms. Morse as she took me on irreverently poignant adventures through her life and her mother's life, which includes "Ma" becoming a nun at 85 years old!

"The Habit" can be appreciated by all, whether or not you're a parent, a daughter, a son, or a nun, if you enjoy an honest, well written and marvelously witty book then you'll enjoy "The Habit".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique and moving book. And entertaining. December 25, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
THE HABIT

By Susan Morse

This book is a jigsaw puzzle. Ostensibly the story of the author's relationship with her mother, and especially the relationship between the grown woman with children who still need her and her elderly mother, no longer self-sufficient. The `sandwich generation' dilemma is omnipresent today, and likely to become more so.

`The Habit' is an engaging portrait of a mother who happens to be talented, difficult, eccentric-to the point that her journey culminated in becoming a nun at the age of eighty-five. And the book is more than a portrait of this woman and of her daughter. The ride that we go on addresses what it is to commit to anyone, and what a mysterious and complex journey it is.

Susan Morse observes her mother and others with great detail. She goes beyond what they have achieved and what their circumstances are; the characters, especially Ma, are very complex and do not escape incisive criticism. Susan's own spiritual pursuit can be described as a desire for a world in which people tell the truth. Susan conveys the fact that she understands only too well that the ability to be truthful must be learned. I gathered that Susan felt grateful for the twists of fate that have helped her. She can therefore comment on the failures of others with tenderness rather than contempt.

`The Habit' has spontaneity and weaves many themes together. It is clear that the structure has been scrutinized and that the pace is conscious, that the high points and the revisiting of some things and the positioning of others are deliberate. And it works really well. Much of the subject matter drags us into the heart of darkness that lurks in the frail human body but the book is at least as humorous as it is painful.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Touching, funny memoir with an added bonus September 30, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Susan Morse's mom is and has always been a handful. She's one of those "special snowflake" people--you're never sure what diet she's on, eschews antibiotics "I'm allergic to all of them" (not because she had a reaction but she "knows" and in her late 80's, decides to become an Orthodox Christian nun. No, she wasn't Orthodox Christian during most of her life--this is a late accomplishment. Susan, located closest of all her siblings to her mother, is in charge of her medical care.

The biography of this unusual family from Philadelphia is interesting; Susan's mother is a talented painter and Susan is an actress. But the silver lining of this book is the story of how Susan navigates the minefield of the health care system. Even with long term care insurance, finding proper care for her mother is a challenge and at one point, she sues a very uncaring HMO who frustrates her mother's rehabilitation with every turn, so much so that they are referred to, not as HMO but as the ESD (eat..s...and die, fill in the blanks.) Susan's battle with them is worth the price of admission alone.

This is an interesting book, amusing at times, frustrating at times, but will probably appeal to anyone with an aging parent or a non-conventional parent.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing really caught my attention
It wasn't a book that really kept my attention. It took me a long time to read it with many interruptions and just lack of interest. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Harry P. Disbrow
2.0 out of 5 stars I did not care for the book
I did not enjoy the book - was very draw out. I took care of my mother, so if someone is in that position now, it might work for them. Read more
Published 1 month ago by barbwahl
5.0 out of 5 stars Habit.
Ok I liked this book very much because it is about our parent getting old and set in her ways.
It teaches us patience. It teaches us kindness, gentleness. Read more
Published 1 month ago by mary mazzella
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but too political
Although I am an avid reader, I rarely take the time to write a review. I enjoyed this book very much as I related to the struggles and emotions of being part of the sandwich... Read more
Published 1 month ago by C Fitzpatrick
4.0 out of 5 stars I didn't know what I was getting into
I buy a LOT of books for Kindle, and don't really remember when I bought this one. When I opened it up, I thought it was a completely different book, and almost closed it after... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nancy A. Weirich
2.0 out of 5 stars Okay
Tis book is not one that I would have selected. Our book club picked but none of us really enjoyed. So little time so many books. I would skip this one.
Published 2 months ago by Aunt Annie
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book for the sandwich generation.
Susan Morse tells a great story of the struggles of taking care if an aging parent while still having children at home. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Karen Hahn
5.0 out of 5 stars She at once amuses us, educates us, and touches our hearts
This is a delightful memoir, written by actor David Morse's wife Susan. She tells of her uneven relationship with her mother as she was growing up, and now finds herself in the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Diane L. Lybbert
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Subject Matter, Interesting Book
This chronicle from Susan Morse about her relationship with her mother, in the context of other family relationships, and particularly, her mother's last years, was of interest to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nomi Redding
3.0 out of 5 stars my point of view
To much back and force between past and present
But on the other hand it was good for me to read what my children can get into problems when I get older
Only 69 now and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Stephanie van Rhyn
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More About the Author

Other than two years in Ireland in the sixties and a stint at a Newport Rhode Island boarding school during my teens, I spent most of my childhood in Philadelphia, where I was born in 1959. I majored in theatre and French at Williams College and then moved to New York, planning to become a wildly sought-after actress specializing in the classics. This got me as far as an off-off-off theatre in the Bowery, where I played Lady Macbeth for six heady weekends. (Most nights our cast outnumbered the audience, which worked well because it made my sleepwalking scene particularly spooky.)

I met my husband David in 1981 across the bar I was tending near his apartment in Hell's Kitchen. It may have been foolish, but I agreed to go on a date almost immediately, which, due to conflicting schedules, meant I had to see him in a play (this turned out to be sort of convenient, as it gave me a chance to figure out his last name by checking the playbill). Not long after his first entrance, I decided it would be best to marry him as quickly as possible.

I studied Meisner technique at the William Esper Studio, and we then moved to Los Angeles for David's work. Over a six-year period I managed to build up a bit of a resume - small movies, television, and plays. I was George C. Scott's daughter on Mr. President, Colleen Dewhurst and Candice Bergen's sparring partner on Murphy Brown, Peter Riegert's one-night stand on The Twilight Zone, and somebody's dead lesbian lover in an episode of Hotel. I ran a program on the side teaching horseback riding to disadvantaged kids, and I became a member of a theatre company, Circle Rep West. After we had our daughter and twin sons, things got complicated: Roused in the night by the Northridge earthquake in 1994, we found we had to leave our ruined house for good. So, within weeks, we landed back East in Philadelphia. Because I had always loved to read, I stopped acting and began editing books, freelance.

A few years ago my elderly mother got sick and we had some outrageous adventures trying to get her stabilized. It was stressful. I emailed nightly update rants to my siblings, and it turned out they were entertaining in a warped sort of way. A sister told me I had a book, and so I began to collect notes in earnest, becoming more and more amazed at the classic arc that unfolded. It wasn't just that my mother decided to drop everything at one point and become an Orthodox Christian nun. We had a damsel in distress (actually two, if you count me), a villain, a chivalrous knight, a whole background cast of those bumbling peripheral characters you get in Shakespeare and Chekhov, and even a stunning deus ex machina twist at the end. All I had to do was carry around a notebook, convince my mother her rectal cancer nightmare was worth sharing with the masses, and try to come up with a catchy title: The Habit.

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The Habit - Book Club questions
For our club, the hostess has to come up with question. We write them down on slips of paper and draw one each. Some ?? were--who will be your "Susan" in your later years?
What role did her siblings play? What happened to Susan in Ireland with the gardener?
Was the mom a good mom? How... Read more
Aug 1, 2012 by  |  See all 4 posts
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