On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened – review

Last week I introduced you to Lori Schafer when she guest posted here. Today, I’d like to talk about how much I enjoyed her touching memoir. On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened is a raw unsentimental memoir of a young life shattered by her mother’s mental illness. It is the tale of the loneliness and emptiness inherent in having a mentally ill parent. Schafer obviously felt compassion for her mom and could remember when the family had happier times.

Lori Schafer does not indulge in blaming or go on angry tirades, although she had much to be angry about. She tells the story of how ‘Judy Green Hair’ became increasingly paranoid and unpredictable throughout her adolescence and her eventual escape from her family situation in a straightforward style that broke my heart with its poignance. In the end, Lori Schafer’s story is a tale of resilience and strength in the face of overwhelming odds.

There were several times while I was reading this book that I wanted to go to Lori and give her a hug. I wished I could have comforted teenaged Lori and found a way to help young adult Lori when she was all alone in the world. The sections about Lori’s life in Berkeley were difficult to read because they made me weep for a young woman so alone in the world. It helped to see glimpses of the strong adult Lori would eventually become throughout the narrative.

On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened is a remarkably fast read. I read it in one sitting. Schafer breaks up the narrative of her life with short stories and essays that mirror her own experience. They felt a bit discordant at first, but I quickly saw how the short interruptions in Lori’s story were like the digressions of an unwell mind – slightly ajar yet completely relevant.


Mother's Death Front Flyer

On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness

It was the spring of 1989. I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and an honors student. I had what every teenager wants: a stable family, a nice home in the suburbs, a great group of friends, big plans for my future, and no reason to believe that any of that would ever change. Then came my mother’s psychosis. I experienced first-hand the terror of watching someone I loved transform into a monster, the terror of discovering that I was to be her primary victim. For years I’ve lived with the sadness of knowing that she, too, was a helpless victim – a victim of a terrible disease that consumed and destroyed the strong and caring woman I had once called Mom. My mother’s illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future. A year and a half later I would be living alone on the street on the other side of the country, wondering whether I could even survive on my own. But I did. That was how my mother – my real mother – raised me. To survive. She, too, was a survivor. It wasn’t until last year that I learned that she had died – in 2007. No one will ever know her side of the story now. But perhaps, at last, it’s time for me to tell mine. On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened is now available in eBook and paperback from Amazon. The audiobook, which Lori narrated, is also forthcoming.

???????????????????????????????Author Bio Lori Schafer’s flash fiction, short stories, and essays have appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her first two books were published this November. On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness commemorates Lori’s terrifying adolescent experience of her mother’s psychosis, while Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past is an autobiographical collection featuring stories and essays inspired by other events from Lori’s own life. In the summer of 2014, Lori began work on a second memoir, The Long Road Home, during the course of a solo two-month-long journey across the United States and Canada. She anticipates that it will be ready for publication late in 2015. When she isn’t writing (which isn’t often), Lori enjoys playing ice hockey, attending beer festivals, and spending long afternoons reading at the beach in the sunshine. For further information on Lori’s upcoming projects, please visit her website at http://lorilschafer.com/.


On a personal note – I am heading out on a short book tour this week. If you are in MA or VA, drop by one of the events and introduce yourself. I would love to chat.

  • November 16, 1:00-3:00, Tatnuck Bookseller, 18 Lyman St, Westborough, MA
  • November 18, 7:00-8:00, Shrewsbury Public Library, 214 Lake Street, Shrewsbury, MA
  • November 18, 2:00-8:00, Women’s Fiction Writers Association book launch celebration, online
  • November 22, 3:30-5:00, Fountain Bookstore, 1312 E. Cary Street Shockoe Slip, Richmond, VA
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