- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Counterpoint; First Trade Paper Edition edition (February 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1582434611
- ISBN-13: 978-1582434612
- Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 68 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #858,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Swallow the Ocean: A Memoir Paperback – February 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
It was 1975, and nine-year-old Flynn was sitting with her mother on the floor of their San Francisco apartment with a pile of money as her mother explained that the faces of these men on the coins and bills in front of us... had impact on people and events. Flynn's father had moved out a year earlier; her two sisters were at school, where she, too, should have been; instead, her mother needed to talk with her about all those faces on the money. This is how Flynn, a writing instructor at the University of Minnesota, begins her elegantly written story of how her mother had been an adventurous bohemian in the 1950s and '60s, before she became unhinged by what was later diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. Family life became bizarrely unpredictable as her mother became attached to stranger and stranger notions. After her father moved out, mother laid out the new terms of our lives... staying inside, and cutting all our ties to other people... careful about what we ate, and what we wore. Readers begin to share Flynn's sense of dread about what her mother might do next, heightened by the disturbingly controlled calm of her narration. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* What is a child to do when the parent who’s the center of her universe becomes desperately ill? That’s the wrenching reality Flynn faces when she learns that her mother is a paranoid schizophrenic. The words were “long and strange and frankly, ugly,” writes Flynn, who was 10 at the time her father gave her mother’s frazzled frame of mind a name. “Even so, I had a feeling it was something I could hang onto, something I could rebuild my world around.” For years, Flynn and her two sisters, one older, one younger, played along as characters in their mother’s fantasy world. But when her seemingly innocuous antics (forbidding certain foods and making lists of good and evil things) turned violent, the girls’ father filed for divorce, then custody. Flynn’s haunting memoir vividly recaptures the San Francisco of the 1970s, an emotionally fraught era in which quirky behaviors were more likely to be sanctioned than scorned. Flynn’s ability to render the perspective of a child elevates this memoir from ordinary to extraordinary. From the start, readers see inside her impressionable young mind as she lives from one breathless moment to the next, grappling with scenarios that would level the most well-adjusted adults. --Allison Block --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
From the beginning of "Swallow the Ocean," we know that Laura's mother, Sally, lives in a skewed imaginative world, and her father is not mentioned until the book is well underway. Something is wrong in this family, and we want to know what.
So we take the plunge into their world, diving into the histories of Laura's parents and how they came together. We see the daily lives of three sisters, each more uncertain than the last, as the girls learn to navigate their mother's oddities. Sally eats a strict diet and spends hours interpreting her dreams, using her premonitions to determine major life decisions - and things only get stranger. Eventually, Sally's father puts forth the ultimatum: She must get help or he will leave, and threatens to take the children as well. Of course, a generation ago, the courts had a strong bias toward keeping children with their mothers, so he was left with few options.
There are many heavy themes in this book, not the least of which is how children understand and respond to parents with mental illness. There is also the fact that in most states, individuals cannot be treated for mental illness against their wills. But the heart of this book, once the girls' father is sidelined to weekend visits, is the elaborate web of games that the girls develop to handle their situation. Their mother alternately neglects, controls, and physically abuses them, and they learn to walk on eggshells in the progressively encrusted apartment from which their mother refuses to throw anything away. They learn to sneak in forbidden foods, spend hours playing with friends with whom they can rarely be quite honest, and take their dolls on adventures that last for weeks, if not months.
As the story unfolds, there is beauty and strength in the telling. However, there's a tendency toward overly flowery prose that the author is not quite prepared to handle. Particularly glaring is the almost complete lack of colons and semicolons, with run-on sentences relying on comma after comma for differentiation. It's occasionally difficult to read because of these sentence constructions. But the story is worth the trouble.
Laura's mother still remains much of a mystery to me even though were reading her story though her childs perspective .You never get to "hear" from Sally" . which frustrated me a bit but I understand why we didn't get all the blanks filled in .. I would read a few chapter then have to put this book down because I was on a vacation but I always could not wait to get back to the story at the end of the day . NO movies or tv could lure me away until I finished it . I cannot imagine how hard living with a parent like this could be how terrifying and yet you still feel the love that Laura and her siblings felt for their mother. Its easy to say . "She should have been given some help alot sooner and the kids removed from her home way before they were " however they were not and perhaps this is what made the writer we have here today . I hope for more books from Laura Flynn .