When a mother's unusual health condition, normal pressure hydrocephalus, renders her entirely dependent on you, your sisters, caregivers, and companions, the unthinkable becomes daily life. Tillman describes doing what seems impossible: handling her mother as if she were a child and coping with a longtime ambivalence toward her.
A masterfully-wrought story of ambivalence that is both heartbreaking and exasperating ... In staccato prose that can be brilliantly maddening — the narrator often repeats herself within the same paragraph, the language circling back and forth in time and place, contradicting itself, meandering — the reader is taken on a narratively idiosyncratic journey that mirrors almost exactly the dissociative, circuitous nature ... Wrapped around this stunning story of caregiving, with its questions of obligation and ethics and what it means to care for someone who, perhaps, didn’t care for you, is the hint of familial disconnection ... Starkly-told.
Lynne Tillman offers an account that is startling in its blunt, even brutal, refusal of sentimentality ... The book is mostly composed of personal recollections, but Tillman occasionally offers some explicit words of guidance for anyone who might be in a similar situation ... Where another writer might seek the most self-flattering light, Tillman is unsparingly frank about the power she knew she had ... There’s something surprisingly retrograde in Tillman’s intergenerational mother-blame, but I suppose there’s something revealing in it, too ... Tillman is too aware of ambiguity and ambivalence to reduce her mother to [a] caricature, rounding it out with a fuller portrait, almost in spite of herself.
Tillman has in this slim memoir of the final years of her mother’s life zeroed in on an underrepresented facet of the universal contract: our queasy anxiety that the relationship might, in the end, be transactional ... Changing your mother’s diaper, however, is the definition of unrewarding. Both parties are humiliated. It’s hard to write about without its becoming comedy. It’s hard to write about at all. Mothercare manages, and without bathos or squeamishness — though Tillman confesses she never got used to the more excremental of her responsibilities ... Mothercare is practical, not sentimental. It flirts with being analytical. It’s even useful.