- Review: Praise of Motherhood
- Series: —
- Author: Phil Jourdan
- No of Pages: 126
- Release Date: May 25th 2012 by Zero Books
When Phil Jourdan’s mother died suddenly in 2009, she left behind a legacy of kindness and charity – but she also left unanswered some troubling questions. Was she, as she one claimed, a spy? Had she suffered more profoundly as a woman and a parent than she’d let on?
Jourdan’s recollections of his struggles with psychosis, and his reconstructions of conversations with his enigmatic other, form the core of this memoir. Psychoanalysis, poetry and confession all merge to tell the story of an ordinary woman whose death turned her into a symbol for extraordinary motherhood.
Phil Jourdan is a musician, translator and columnist from Portugal, living in the UK.
Christ, I wish the world knew what it was missing.
What a poignantly written memoir and remembrance of a loved one. I laughed, I cried, I yelled. Some of this is horrific and remarkable and lovable. Phil Jourdan must be a remarkable person and very brave to write so much about not only his fabulous mother, but also himself. To admit that we have our demons to ourselves is difficult but this man opens up his life with his mother and what they put each other through. It’s lighthearted for the most part but also so very deep as he expresses his joys and pains of knowing his mother and growing up with her.
She let us sulk after our tantrums, work through the misunderstandings. She sighed a great deal and cleaned up a good deal more and every day told us she loved us.
We all hope that our loved ones, but especially our mothers, will stand by us in our trials. But even mothers do not know everything. Phil Jourdan expresses his torment and disappointment when he found out that his mother did not have all of the answers to so many of his questions. That she even had unanswered questions of her own! We all go through this little stumble in life when we find out our parents are not superheroes. That they even have the very same issues we do! But then we have to learn to lean on ourselves, something that is difficult for most of us. Phil Jourdan finds his way of protecting his mother much like she protects him, by keeping the truth to themselves. He forever worries that she will see the real demon inside of him and that then she will lose all of her love. But that’s the fabulous thing about his mother, she loved him through thick and thin and wanted to help him as much as she possibly could.
Of course she was flawed: my mother made extremely human mistakes, performed all the rituals of the mortal, engaged in the pleasures of hte earth and was occasionally too cowardly to do the right thing. But in spite of every imperfection she may have possessed, I cannot fault her for a single thing.
If only when all of our mothers pass away we could feel this kind of love, this special ingredient that makes us whole. Much more importantly, prior to! We all have our ups and downs, each of us but to express them to each other is so hard but that is what makes life difficult. I hope that he has found some peace with writing this. The peace that we all need to find, hopefully not at the end of our roads.
It’s not all a ride that someone is going to take you on; you gotta take yourself on a path, even if it’s an effed up path.
Oh now, the hard part. How do I rate a book that delves deep into my own world? My mother and I have had our issues, some quite large, some small, some we don’t even talk about anymore. But I’ve learned, much like Phil Jourdan has that you have to continue loving, it is called unconditional love. And that love that our mothers give us will surpass time itself. So, I rate this as a tremendous five. The most fascinating and touching memoir I’ve read to date. Absolutely loved it and will pass it on to those that need a little, or maybe a lot, of love in their lives.
Please enjoy this excerpt from Praise of Motherhood, a touching memoir by Phil Jourdan. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $500 in Amazon gift cards and 5 autographed copies of the book.
It was Veterans Day; the Pope spoke into a microphone so the thousands around him could hear his weary voice. And in the airport lounge my sister and I waited for our flight to take off, trying not to listen to the televised broadcast of the Pope’s solemn speech. I held my sister’s hand and heard her say fuck for the first time.
“fuck, do you think she’s going to be okay”
and I said “I don’t know”
and she said “but why aren’t they telling us what’s going on”
“I don’t know”
“I don’t want mom to die”
“I’m so scared”
and the Pope went on, speaking of the dead, the men whose lives had been lost in a terrible war, and he praised them, their families, for the courage they’d shown. He spoke of Christ, but not much. Sometimes he closed his eyes and paused. From the airport lounge, sitting in front of the television screens, I had to rely on the cameras for a sense of what being there was like. Safe and comfortable and mourning out of patriotic or humanistic duty, in a spirit of contemplation. The Pope did not know that my mother was dying in a little hospital in Portugal. Neither did the lady who announced, on the intercom at the airport, that out of respect for the men who had lost their lives during the war however many decades ago now, we were all invited to stand for two minutes of silence. Everyone else in the lounge stood up, but my sister and I remained in our seats and hugged each other.
As far as I knew, my mother was dying or dead, a small, tanned Portuguese woman with curly dark hair and two dogs, two kids, a lovely loving wonderful lady, all of that sob-story stuff. It turned out that when we were waiting for our flight, she was still alive. She would only die in the evening, after the Pope was done speaking and everyone was having dinner and no longer thinking about the veterans. But nobody had warned me. Nobody had warned anyone. Everybody was on the way to Portugal, my uncle, my grandfather, me and my sister, all of us trying to protect someone. They didn’t tell me what had happened until I arrived in Portugal. I didn’t tell my sister everything I knew, which was next to nothing, because I wanted to think I could protect her. I spoke to my father on the phone and he was in tears: “I will be there when you land,” he said,
and I said:
“but why, what’s going on”
“I’m not sure, I’m not sure, but if I were you… oh, Jesus, if I were you I would brace myself for the worst”
And he broke into tears and hung up. They had been separated fifteen years.
On the plane my sister and I spoke little. I told her it’d be okay. I told her even if the worst happened, I’d be around for her. You’re my little sister. Tell me about Denver. How are classes going? She gave short, bored answers, and she asked me about my life. I told her I’d been about to take the train to Paris from London with a friend when I found out something was wrong with our mom.
“but what’s wrong with her” my sister said
“I don’t know”
“why don’t they just tell us”
“because they’re trying to keep us sane”
“how can I be sane when my mom is dying all of a sudden”
“I really don’t know”
When we arrived in Portugal, and I saw my family standing together waiting for us — my grandparents, my father, my aunt — I knew at once there was no hope.
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About the book: Praise of Motherhood is a son’s tribute to the woman who not only gave him life, but helped him live: through various psychotic breakdowns, tumultuous teenage years, and years of feeling out of place in the world. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
About the author: Phil Jourdan fronts the lit-rock band Paris and the Hiltons, runs the fiction press Perfect Edge Books, and occasionally works on a PhD. Visit Phil on his blog, music site, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.