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Wishing for Snow: A Memoir

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Overview

In this brave and beautifully composed tribute to her mother, Minrose Gwin accomplishes something rare in the craft of the memoir: not merely a record of a devastating mother-daughter relationship but a redemptive act of artistic witness as well. In telling the story of her mentally ill poet mother, Erin Taylor Clayton Pitner, Gwin looks backward and forward at a southern family, linking personal and cultural malaise while also attempting to envision the person her mother longed to be, the woman Gwin never knew.

Erin Taylor wasn't always unsane. Her childhood diary from 1930 reveals a cheerful, observant Mississippi girl who steadfastly wished for snow. From a dreamy college student to a young divorced mother who then remarried, grew middle aged, and began to write and publish poetry, Erin Taylor spiraled deeper and deeper into the psychosis that eventually defined her existence until her death from ovarian cancer. Gwin searches for her mother amid the poetry, letters, recipes, traffic tickets, newspaper clippings, medical reports, and quixotic lists left behind. She even conjures a ghostly Erin in the office who tells her own version of Gwin's memories.

With humor, intrigue, and sadness, Gwin's compelling memoir reflects the brilliance and despair of her mother's life. Haunting every page of Wishing for Snow is the sense that Erin Taylor is transcending the tragic limitations of mental and physical disease through her daughter's quest to truly know her. Gwin's combination of candor and grace takes wing toward a reconciliation both impossible and utterly necessary.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"My mother was crazy. My mother went crazy. I'm not sure which of these statements is true; perhaps both are," Gwin writes. Weaving together childhood diary entries, old letters and poems, Gwin, an English professor at Purdue, traces her mother's unraveling from a young parent to an emotionally unstable, even dangerous, older woman. Erin Taylor hailed from a well-to-do Mississippi family with skeletons in the closet: the suicides of Gwin's great-grandfather and great-aunt. "Erin Taylor was considered eccentric and difficult to get along with by people who knew her well and people who had known her in passing," Gwin notes. As Erin's mental illness progressed, she suffered from anorexia, prescription drug abuse and other irrational behaviors, including leaving raw meat out to rot. After Erin's death from ovarian cancer, Gwin tries to piece together why her mother was so disturbed. Gwin explicates her relationship with her mother and dissects her decline through innumerable recollections. She doesn't search out a particular moment, a recapitulating event or a single theory of her mother's disease. Instead, she stumbles over her life's interactions with Erin, spending a good deal of time exorcising her guilt over twice committing her mother to psychiatric hospitals. Though Gwin's memoir is a deeply personal account of dealing with mental illness, she fails to convey anything larger, getting caught up in her mother's barbs and behavior. The book opens with a fairly detailed family history, but living relatives including Gwin's siblings are noticeably absent from the story, making it less full than it might have been. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807129289
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 0.98 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2010

    A Great Read

    Rarely have I read such an enlightening piece of work. Minrose Gwin let's the reader experience her journey down a road we all must travel with our families. I highly recommend this book to everyone who has a family member they love. I truely enjoyed this piece.

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  • Posted January 28, 2010

    Captivating memoir that I couldn't put down!

    This story is the most interesting memoir I've ever read. The story of Minrose's family is interesting, thoughtful, and never boring. A real tribute to the art of memoirs.
    Get this book! The emotional story of this southern family is sometimes tumultuous, happy, sad, fun, and so much more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautifully written and compelling memoir

    This daughter's coming to terms at once with her Mother's poetic genius and mental illness really deserves a place among the best memoirs in recent years.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2008

    Poorly written and uninteresting. I advise against reading.

    I am very surprised that this pathetic memoir was actually published. It does not exhibit any type of literary art and the story is very dull. Very little, if anything, can be gained from this combination of random pages that detail the author's wierd life.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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