WiTM: A Woman’s Story


A Womans Storyby French writer Annie Ernaux and translated by Tanya Leslie, is a memoir about the author’s mother. The author begins writing not quite three weeks after the funeral in an attempt to come to terms with her mother’s death.

THE WEEK following the funeral, I would start to cry for no particular reason. As soon as I awoke, I knew my mother was dead. I emerged from a heavy slumber, remembering nothing of my dreams except that my mother was in them, dead.

The story alternates between the author’s present and the mother’s past.  We learn about her mother’s humble beginnings, her drive to better herself, and the strong influence she had in her daughter’s life. During the last several years of her life she suffered from a steadily increasing dementia, a challenging and frightening situation that was constantly in flux. As with many mother-daughter stories, this one is filled with conflicting emotions as the author struggles to make peace with a complicated relationship.

I recommend this book, especially if you’ve had a parent with dementia and/or a penchant for mother-daughter memoirs.

When I am at home, I occasionally come across things that used to belong to her, like her thimble, the day before yesterday, the one she always wore on her crooked finger, the result of an accident at the rope factory. Suddenly the reality of her death overwhelms me and I am back in the real world, the one where she will no longer be.

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