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A memoir has to be cleverly written or it becomes just a recount which can be quite boring. Ann’s memoir is anything but boring! She has used her vast arsenal of writerly talents to compile a riveting story of her life. It is the generous use of dialogue which sets this memoir apart, drawing the reader in. I felt like I was going through the journey with Ann, (and offering her advice along the way.)
And what a difficult journey it is. For a married woman with four children to find out her husband really preferred men must have been painful beyond imagining. I’m sure many women reading In the Mirror would be yelling at Ann: Give him the boot! Don’t put up with it! But Ann is not just any woman; she is a woman of remarkable strength and purpose. She had married for life, she was protective of her children, she was not going to give up easily. Even her husband Larry said on breaking the news: ‘You probably want to leave me.’ Ann replied: ‘No. I don’t want to leave you. You’re my husband. The children love you.’ (p.23). And so Larry stayed, but wasn’t prepared to give up men. The marriage continued for seven years after Ann found out her husband had cheated on her. Seven turbulent years.
I was surprised at the extend of intervention from the Mormon church of which Ann and Larry were both members. It must have been helpful for Ann to have the men of the church to call on in her times of distress, but I didn’t always feel the advice they gave was in Ann’s best interests, but maybe that’s just independent me speaking.
For such a tale of woe, Ann is never woeful. She takes many blows, but receives them with grace. The reader can’t help becoming emotionally involved. I was very angry at some of the complications of her ex-husband’s gay life, how it affected the children, how it made a difficult situation even more difficult. I was angry at Ann’s financial struggle, especially after Jen’s car accident and resultant brain damage, while her ex-husband was in a position to help her but chose not to for selfish reasons.
Then I was surprised when Ann chose to marry again, this time to a man obviously addicted to alcohol, going against the advice of the church. But was it the financial pressure and her need to see her children secure that was behind this decision? Once again Ann and her family are put through years of turmoil until the inevitable happens and Tom is no longer with them.
Throughout Ann’s struggle, it is obvious she retains feelings for her ex-husband and that she regrets the breakdown of a marriage which she believed would last into eternity. In the Mormon marriage ceremony the bride and groom stand ‘in front of mirrors with mirrors behind them that reflected their endless images, symbolic of eternal marriage’ (p.197). This is where I think the title In the Mirror originates. But sadly even though Larry and Ann’s images were reflected in the mirror on their wedding day, their marriage was not to be for eternity.
For a great memoir which is a celebration of the resiliency of the human spirit, read Ann Carbine Best’s In the Mirror. I eagerly await her next memoir.
L'Aussie's Verdict: 9/10
Sunday, July 24, 2011