Sixteen days after author Don Snyder (The Cliff Walk
) and his twin brother were born in 1950, their 19-year-old mother died. Her heartbroken husband, Richard, chose to never discuss her with his sons. But when Snyder, now in his late 40s, stumbles across a picture of his parents, he determines to excavate his mother's short existence as a gift for his father, who is dying from a brain tumor. This tender but terribly sad memoir is the result: the chronicle of smart, beautiful, but intensely private Peggy Schwartz, who wasn't as confident as she seemed, who felt completed by the love of a devout World War II veteran, who chose to carry her pregnancy to term and conceal her life-threatening toxemia from that beloved husband. As Snyder delves into his mother's life and death, he alternates between the love and rage that bring him closer to the man most deeply scarred by this youthful tragedy. The book's last scene, in which father and son sit together looking through Dick and Peggy Snyder's wedding album, is almost unbearably poignant. Yet there's also joy in the author's mystical belief that his quest has opened for him "the path back through stars and memory" that will one day reunite wife and husband, mother and sons. --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
As a child, Snyder intuited that he was not to probe his father about the pastA"a place where the hearse was parked." In this engrossing account of his attempt, at age 47, to piece together the life story of his mother, Peggy, by talking to her family, friends and neighbors, Snyder admits it was "preposterous" that he and his twin brother had never asked certain questions about her or the circumstances of her sudden death, at 19, days after their birth in rural Pennsylvania. He had known nothing of his parents' love storyAof the veteran and the prettiest girl in Hatfield, Pa., or of their honeymoon in Manhattan in 1949, 10 months before Peggy died. Snyder, the author of two novels, a biography and a previous memoir, The Cliff Walk, found that his curiosity about Peggy assumed an urgency when he was visiting his ailing father, now a retired minister, in 1997. He unflinchingly plumbs his family's "unremembering," born of a grief so profound it begs the question of complicity in the death of Peggy's memory. This memoir of his discovery process braids earnest, if effusive, ruminations with novelistic passages in which Snyder steps into his mother's consciousness to narrate her story. Some readers may find this fictional approach less an act of devotion than a strange appropriation of her life, since she is not present to forgive errors of fact or omission. But Snyder's painstaking evocation of his emotional odyssey in search of a young woman with extraordinary courage will resonate with most readers. Agent, Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.