Motherhood wreaks havoc on your body, your brain cells and your wallet—and you wouldn’t have it any other way. Just in time for Mother’s Day, we’ve chosen five new releases that embrace the stickiest, messiest, sweetest, most exhausting job of all. Pick one up as a present for Mom or as a gift for yourself.
A GRAND ADVENTURE
Anyone who read Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott’s seminal book on the trials and tribulations of motherhood, will be flabbergasted to learn that her infant son, Sam, is now a 19-year-old father. Although the pregnancy was a surprise, Lamott welcomes her new grandson, Jax, with her hallmark humor and faith (and a healthy dash of neurosis) in Some Assembly Required.
She writes candidly of her mixed feelings about the baby’s mother, a lovely but headstrong young woman who keeps Lamott firmly at arm’s length when it comes to raising Jax. Still, the two women forge a deep, if sometimes fragile, bond as they set about the messy business of building an extended family. Insightful, poignant and laugh-out-loud funny, Some Assembly Required is Lamott at her very best.
THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY
The subtitle of Making Babies, Anne Enright’s marvelously irreverent look at having children later in life, is “Stumbling into Motherhood,” and that is just what the Irish writer did when she and her husband had their first child after 18 years of marriage.
Is there anything better than a book that doesn’t romanticize pregnancy? When Enright recalls her pregnancy as a time in which she “sat and surfed the Net like some terrible turnip, gagging and leaning back in my chair,” I laughed in agreement. I kept laughing throughout the whole book, including the section called “How to Get Trolleyed While Breastfeeding.” (“Trolleyed” being a very Irish way of saying “drunk.”)
That’s not to say some of that laughter wasn’t through a few tears. Never has the bittersweet impact of motherhood been summed up more poignantly than by Enright. “This is what motherhood has done to me,” she writes. “I cannot watch violent films (I used to quite like violent films), I can’t even watch ones where the violence is ironical (I used to love irony). I cry at all funerals. I look with yearning at the airport road. I am complacent to the point of neglect about my body. I shop where the fat girls shop (it is a different place). For months I do not shop at all.”
Making Babies is a must-read for anyone who’s ever experienced the joys of motherhood—and ’fessed up to its agonies.
TO THE TOP
I was bracing to be slightly annoyed by the ambitious mother and her overachieving mountain-climbing daughter in Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure. But Patricia Ellis Herr is no tiger mom, pushing her daughter Alex to the brink. She is simply a mom who recognized her daughter’s boundless energy and helped her harness it.
The duo climbs nearly 50 New England peaks during their year-and-a-half adventure, an amazing accomplishment given that Alex was only five years old when they started. The quest is not without its harrowing moments, such as when Herr forgets to put windproof gloves on Alex and they have to turn back 200 yards from summiting for fear of frostbite. Add to this the fact that Herr’s husband—Alex’s father—lost both his legs to frostbite in a mountain-climbing accident at age 17.
But Up is marked more by the sweet, small moments the mother-and-daughter team experience while climbing, as when Alex asks her mother why a boy told her she can’t be good at math because she’s a girl. Herr’s account is really half hiking reference manual and half meditation on how to instill independence and confidence at a young age—an odd and oddly compelling combination.
TREASURING THE UNEXPECTED
As soon as the doctor laid the baby in her arms, Kelle Hampton knew her daughter had Down syndrome. “I will never forget my daughter in my arms, opening her eyes over and over . . . she locked eyes with mine and stared . . . bore holes into my soul. Love me. Love me. I’m not what you expected, but oh please love me.”
Hampton is best known for her acclaimed blog, Enjoying the Small Things. In Bloom, a searing and brave portrait of her baby’s first year, Hampton opens up about her fears and jubilation, and what she calls “the throbbing pain of losing what I had expected.” She recounts the late nights doing Internet research on what to expect as Nella grew up, and the triumph of their first walk for Down syndrome awareness.
Filled with personal photos from the delivery room through Nella’s first birthday, Bloom gives a whole new meaning to the term “open book.”
SONG OF MYSELF
My Story, My Song is the slim but lyrical memoir of Lucimarian Roberts, the mother of “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts. The elder Roberts, who has become known to GMA viewers through her daughter’s occasional references and a couple of appearances on the program, reveals a delightfully upbeat voice at the age of 87. In the book, co-written with Missy Buchanan, she recalls her racially charged childhood in 1920s Akron, Ohio, her years at historically black Howard University and her experiences as the wife of a career Air Force officer and the mother of four. Primarily, though, My Story, My Song focuses on Roberts’ Christian faith and the gospel music that has been a constant companion throughout her life.
“I sing because the music of the church speaks my soul language,” she writes. “I sing because these songs are tightly woven into the texture of who I am. Lucimarian Tolliver Roberts. Child of God.” Brief reflections from daughter Robin are sprinkled throughout, small but beautiful gems in a truly sparkling book.