Melody Marcus is not crazy – at least she doesn’t think so. The main character of Myra Sherman’s novel Mother Mary is someone who could easily be anyone. She had a good life that deteriorated after the loss of a job. In this novel, Melody lives as Mother Mary, a homeless woman, drifting and subsisting, rather than living. Her life hits rock bottom as the book begins, and she finds herself embroiled in a tragedy involving the death of a newborn and is placed in a jail under mental health observation. Much like Flowers for Algernon, the narrative voice evolves as Mary slowly emerges from the haze of drugs and alcohol and deprivation of food, water, and sleep. The longer she spends in jail, contemplating her situation, the more lucid her understanding of her entire path becomes, and as the reader, you are absorbed in her struggle to make sense of her past, present, and future.
The book is well-written and provokes thoughts of how quickly life can change. The story is as believable as it is heartbreaking, and each setback feels like a personal blow to the reader. While the first chapters feel shadowy and confusing, it reflects the same confusion the narrator feels, as she attempts to understand her situation. The novel is rich with description of life on the mental ward of a prison, creating a cold, yet realistic, depiction of Mary’s day-to-day.
The only shortfall of the novel is a somewhat trite ending, which feels too good to be true after the stark realities of the previous 200 pages. Still, the book raises questions about what being homeless really means and who “those people” actually are. With a character whose background seems to be pulled directly from the stories of thousands who have found themselves upon hard times, it’s impossible to close the book without wondering – could it happen to me?
|The Medulla Review Publishing
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