Book Review: 'Unfinished people' with opportunities to grow

 

"At My Pace: Lessons from our Mothers," by Jill Ebstein

NEWTON, Mass-At 81-years old, Jill Ebstein's mom signed up for a formal program in Jewish studies. Previously unable to attend college and now widowed, her mom set out to take care of unfinished business. Since the books seemed too heavy for her to lug around, her younger classmates chipped in to buy her a rolling backpack. When she completed the course and expressed pride in finally having a 'real graduation,' her children flew out for the ceremony. Her son held a party for her at his accounting firm.

"We are all unfinished people with opportunities to grow," writes Ebstein in her newest collection to her At My Pace series of books, called "At My Pace: Lessons from our Mothers." While her mom didn't live to see the book get published, she heard and commented on all the submissions along the way. "It really was a special time with mom and it provided us a distraction, but a meaningful one. It changed our conversation from the need to eat and drink and do physical therapy to the complexity of relationships and the need to find and show gratitude."


"At My Pace: Lessons from our Mothers"is a collection of 38-stories from men and women, which seeks to expand a conversation, much as the first book, "At My Pace: Ordinary Women Tell Extraordinary Stories" (2015), only here the topic is not our journey and whether to lean in but our mom. Each piece is approximately 1,000 words and shows complexity, appreciation, and one specific lesson that each mother gave to her son or daughter. The book is divided into three sections by age range: under 40, 40 to 60, and over 60; all of which were gathered and edited by Jill Ebstein; in addition to her own story about her mom, "My Mother's Rolling Backpack."

Some submissions grappled with second chances and the work that derives from repair; touching on topics like acceptance, love, and redemption. One contributor reflects on her mother as "The General," and talks about the strain of growing up, only to turn the page, become a parent herself, then call her mom not out of obligation but out of desire. Others talk about resilience in spite of mounting personal challenges, like starting over in a new country, while clinging tightly to old ways of life. One daughter describes cutting her hair in an act of defiance, a monumental victory, until later she wins the fight against her dad to attend college and live on campus, making the earlier battle seem comparatively insignificant.


Many contributors shared examples of what they liked about their moms. Top of the list: walking the walk, finding unexpected strength, and the ability to evolve over time. Then there were others who focused on how their moms actions taught them what not to do. The daughter of a glamorous, highly prestigious, Madison Avenue copywriter, learned through her mother's low self-esteem not to focus on weakness but to embrace her strengths. Not surprisingly, in many stories where contributors shared a negative lesson, they showed great compassion and respect toward their mothers.

"At My Pace: Lessons from our Mothers" is a celebration of the matriarchs in our lives. Full of insight and introspective tales, the book highlights the love between parent and child. The mission of the editor is to add meaning and understanding to one's life by candidly sharing life experiences and provide ample opportunities for self-reflection, at one's own pace.

 

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