Saturday, March 29, 2014

Book Review: The End of Eve

Ariel Gore's latest memoir, The End of Eve, leaves you feeling completely spent, as though you've run a marathon, but simultaneously, elated for your life and all of the people in it.

The book has been compared to Gore's last memoir, Atlas of the Human Heart and while the resemblance is apparent, Eve is something different. It is stripped down, to the barest essentials, with the words clinging to the page as they tell the story of the author's mother, Eve, who the reader will want to hug and throttle, usually at the same time. She is abusive, narcissistic, stubborn; a generally awful person and even more so as a mother with the book depicting the following scene: Gore standing up for herself and her mother's retaliation being throwing every possession of Gore's out on the front lawn and changing the locks.

But while the title may hint at the mother, the book is really about the author and how she transitions from being a daughter to being motherless and being a partner to being single. Gore takes on the seemingly routine task of care-taking because her sister lives out of state and is estranged from her mother for most of the book. She uproots her life in Portland, Oregon to move to New Mexico. She, by most normal standards, is an amazing daughter, who supports her mother, regardless of what Eve puts her through. And what Eve does, on a daily basis, would destroy many people. She has remodeling done to her home and fires one of the employees for crying in the bathroom. She tells Gore that she is disinheriting her at Thanksgiving. She calls social and child protective services on her, to get her to her son, Maxito.

As the end draws near, Gore manages the caretakers and hospice nurses, shops for her mother, all while managing a teaching and writing career and caring for her own children. When her mother is in the hospital, she says, "Waiting for love is not love, even if we always call it that." That statement, in part, is at the heart of the book. Eve doles out "love" when it suits her and her needs; Sol, Gore's former partner, does the same.

When Gore has said goodbye to both people at the end of the book, she says: "I thought about...about the way abuse invents us, sure, but as long as we're alive there's time for reinvention; time to imagine some way to integrate the enormity of it all." The author is able to integrate the enormous undertaking of spending two and a half years caring for a terminally ill parent, who was an awful person to her. She is able to say goodbye to two people in her life on her terms. Only fitting that the last line of the book is "And now I was free."

The memoir is in the running for my favorite book of the year. It is gut-wrenching to read and bear witness to this period in the author's life, but by the end, the reader has been given a hard-won gift in this beautifully written book. A worthy addition to anyone's bookshelf.

(Photo Credit: Hawthorne Books)

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