The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers

The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers

by Marcia Gay Harden


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501135705
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 113,485
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.37(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Marcia Gay Harden is one of the most celebrated actors of her generation. In 1993, she originated for Broadway the now-iconic role of Harper Pitt in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, a performance that earned her a Tony Award nomination. In 2001, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of the painter Lee Krasner in Pollock and in 2009, she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her portrayal of Veronica in Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage. Her films include Miller’s Crossing, The First Wives Club, Mystic River (for which she received a second Academy Award nomination), Into the Wild, Magic in the Moonlight, and Fifty Shades of Grey. Her television credits include Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Newsroom, How to Get Away with Murder, and Code Black. She holds a BA in Acting from the University of Texas at Austin and an MFA from the Graduate Acting Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Born in La Jolla, California, she now resides in Los Angeles with her three children. Find out more from and follow her on Twitter @MGH_8.

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The Seasons of My Mother

  • Table of Contents

    Prologue: My mother's flower path 1


    My mother is a brightly ribboned maypole 19

    My mother is a crescent moon 43

    My mother holds me like Mary holds Jesus 67


    My mother flies with Superwoman 83

    My mother is an orange hibiscus in a brown coffee cup 99

    My mother is a miraculous bamboo 121


    My mother is a driftwood ballerina 147

    My mother is a bottle of extra virgin olive oil 159

    My mother is a silver-wrapped piece of Wrigley's Spearmint chewing gum 189


    My mother is a Harry Winston diamond 213

    My mother is a star navigator 247

    My mother is an Easter Bunny In a white confectioner's egg 293

    Epilogue 311

    Acknowledgments 323

    Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for The Seasons of My Mother includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

    Marcia Gay Harden knew at a young age that her life would be anything but ordinary. One of five lively children born to two Texas natives—Beverly, a proper Dallas lady, and Thad, a young naval officer—she always had a knack for storytelling, role-playing, and adventure. As a military family, the Hardens moved often, and their travels eventually took them to Yokohama, off the coast of Japan, during the Vietnam War era. It was here that Beverly, amid the many challenges of raising her family abroad, found her own self-expression in ikebana, the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging.

    Using the philosophy of ikebana as her starting point, Marcia intertwines the seasons of her mother’s life with her own journey from precocious young girl to budding artist in New York City to Academy Award–winning actress. With a razor-sharp wit, as well as the kind of emotional honesty that has made her performances resonate with audiences worldwide, Marcia captures the joys and losses of life even as her precious mother gracefully strives to maintain her identity while coming to grips with Alzheimer’s disease.

    Topics and Questions for Discussion

    1. How does Marcia describe Beverly to us in the prologue? What is Marcia setting out to do in writing their story?

    2. This memoir uses seasons and metaphors as its structure and Marcia often invokes the principles of ikebana, which her mother learned and taught to others. Why do you think Marcia organizes the narrative in this way? How does this structure influence your reading? What is Beverly’s Flower Path?

    3. Describe how the author writes about memories of her childhood. In what ways do her memories stand out to you? How does Marcia’s child voice differ from her adult self’s voice?

    4. What is it like to be the children of a US Navy lieutenant? How are things different at home when Marcia’s father, Thad, is away at sea?

    5. When the Hardens travel to Japan, what transformation does Marcia witness in Beverly?

    6. In her description of her father, Marcia writes: “There was enough darkness in his head” (page 57). Where did this “darkness” come from? Did it go away? How?

    7. Marcia attends the Bon Odori festival as a young girl, which changes her “sense of self forever” (page 63). What does she mean by that? What happens at the festival?

    8. “Friendships that meant everything one day could be entirely vanished the next” (page 71). While Marcia is living in Maryland as a child, what happens to her friendship with the other girls? How does her mother react after she picks up Marcia from the principal’s office? Are you surprised by her reaction?

    9. Where do Marcia’s roots in acting come from?

    10. When Beverly visits Marcia again in New York City, they climb the stairs to Marcia’s apartment rooftop and “[gaze] up at the stars, at this same sky” (page 94). What are they looking for? Do they find it? How does this scene make you feel?

    11. Discuss Marcia’s trip to New Zealand with Beverly. What are Marcia’s initial plans and expectations for the trip? What is the “subtle difference” (page 110) that Marcia senses in her and her mother’s relationship?

    11. Why do you think Marcia writes about Giselle’s recovery from the Potomac River? How are Giselle and Beverly’s “roles” somewhat reversed?

    12. When does Marcia realize that Beverly’s memory issues are serious? What is her initial reaction? What steps does she take to address her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis?

    13. When Marcia’s parents congratulate her on being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the film Pollock, why is Marcia hesitant to accept their congratulations? What are her thoughts about the nomination?

    14. Marcia writes about the night she attended the Oscars and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. What is it like for her and her parents to be at this event? How does this scene make you feel? What are Marcia’s final thoughts on “deserving” an award?

    15. In the epilogue, Marcia says that her mother’s legacy “cannot be Alzheimer’s” (page 314). Instead, how does Marcia choose to describe Beverly’s true legacy?

    Enhance Your Book Club

    1. Marcia uses several metaphors to describe Alzheimer’s disease throughout the book, like “vines” (page 184) and “a robber” or “a stealthy thief” (266). How effective are these metaphors? Do you have your own metaphor for this disease?

    2. Consider enrolling in a local ikebana class to learn more about this ancient Japanese art form.

    3. Marcia incorporates the lyrics of Sarah Vaughan’s standard, “Everything Must Change” into the epilogue. Listen to the song. Why do you think Marcia chose this song? How do the song and the lyrics make you feel?

    4. To learn more about Alzheimer’s, or donate to Alzheimer’s research, visit the Alzheimer’s Association at

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    The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book should have been titled All About Me and By the Way My Mother Has Alzheimers. I was disappointed.