Problem in Living #4: I miss my mom

Dear Book Therapist,

I recently moved a few hundred miles to follow a job opportunity for my partner. This is my first big move and I'm at loose ends. I miss my mom. She lived just a few minutes away from our old house and it was pretty normal for me to stop by there after work just to say hello and help with dinner or watch a TV show. I didn't realize how much I still depended on seeing her and running things by her to feel grounded. I'm embarrassed about how much I miss her!

I'm making plans to see her for visits soon but it's still hard. What should I read?


Dear Anonymous,

You have a really special thing: a family that makes you feel calm. Please don't be embarrassed about needing and missing that! It's such a lovely thing that I think plenty of people miss it even when they've never had it in the first place.

There is a scene in a Tessa Hadley short story where a medium-sized family-- I want to say there are about three teenage children in it-- is having breakfast on a rainy day in their tall, narrow house. They're eating toast and making fun of each other, and Hadley describes the way that it's a little steamy in the kitchen from cooking and close quarters and the chilly day outside. In a few minutes, they are all going to disperse and take up their days. They aren't thinking of this as a special moment because it's an ordinary thing for them. Does that kill you? It kills me.

Tessa Hadley is an example of one of my favorite types of writer: one who has both enormous compassion and enormous precision. The authorial voice is often a kind of floating God-eye who has been here before and seen this particular heartbreak and knows what her characters should be doing, even while she also sees plainly what they ARE doing. Which is to say, the authorial voice is a kind of disembodied ideal parent. You don't just miss your mom because she's kind to you and loves you; you miss her also because she SEES you, with precision.

So you should read some Tessa Hadley. Start with MARRIED LOVE. Or THE LONDON TRAIN. If you're looking for a hit of a very middle-class, country-house, nice-scarf-wearing type of mom, try THE PAST.


Book Therapist