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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2011
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
on December 4, 2011
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
on March 21, 2012
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2012
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
on December 25, 2011
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. Ma's constant obsessive quests and the author's diverse struggles conspire to make us witnesses to a situation that demonstrates that it is the fascination with the people in our lives that keeps us busy pushing a rock up a mountain. When we are fortunate, as Susan is, to find that crystalized responsiveness to being alive that her mother exemplifies in someone we know we are grateful. Failing that, we can share Susan's mother with her.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This book is a great read, I devoured it in just a few days unable to put it down. The author's voice is full of humor and intelligence which gives the book it's emotional impact; at the same time it's wonderfully entertaining. This is great story telling that pulls at you heart and at the same time makes you laugh. This book gives the reader great insight into the experience that so many of us have, how to care for our aging parents.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2013
A fascinating book on an area of culture I'd never heard of. I hope the insights were true … I haven't had time to look up some of the stuff in the book (which I usually do). I thought it all very interesting. This is another book I will undoubtedly read again. I do find it helpful to read a book and let it gestate in my brain for a few months, then go back to it. This is one of those. I will say that I think it is a love story. AND, why shouldn't it be?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2011
When reading this book by first time author, Susan Morse, I felt as though I was there in the room with her listening to her story.
A mix of delightful humor and valuable insight, Morse, author of The Habit, shares her three year journey juggling "Operation Ma", her mother living with cancer, three teenagers preparing for next steps in life and her actor husband whose work takes him out of town for long stretches. Caretaker by default, being the closet sibling living near her mother, Susan, takes on the all consuming role of advocate dealing with doctors, challenging HMO's and some very unexpected twists and turns.
I found myself smiling, cheering, and sharing her frustrations and joy all along the way. Will be watching eagerly for the sequel!
The Habit
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2011
Say your mother spends an adult lifetime dragging her terrified family bumpily toward windmills. Say her journey starts with a life of Philadelphia Story privilege, veers to poverty on an Irish farm, passes through three religions, and ends with her improbable consecration as an Eastern Orthodox nun.

Say the ride exposes you--her daughter--to (among other horrors) a toothless Irish gardener who feels you up when you're seven. Say that as a young adult, having just about had enough, you declare your independence, move to LA, and pursue a successful career as an actress. And then say--just say--that by the time you've got three kids, you find yourself back in your home town taking care of the train wreck of a mother who haunted your youth.

It is this last theme that makes The Habit, Susan Morse's funny new memoir, so poignant. When you know your mother's crazy, and you volunteer to be her safety net, it lets her be crazy. And Morse is onto herself. She knows she's letting her mother exploit her. Bravely, she shows how much she's internalized the woman who's driving her mad, and how she allows her mother's endless demands to interfere with Morse's relationships with her own children. The "habit" of the title isn't just her mother's nun getup.

Morse is seriously funny. "My mother's becoming a nun today," she writes. "She's 85, so I guess it's about time." The reader is treated to Morse's joy at "driving on black ice somewhere you've never been before, dodging skidding cars and accident scenes, when your passenger is an elderly person in pain on a massive laxative prep solution designed to empty her colon that hasn't quite finished its job yet." The author's ironic comic sense buffers both her and the reader from the grinding demands of her habit.

If your mother has ever driven you crazy, this wounded, wise, and witty memoir is the book you've been waiting for.
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