Whether or not one believes the choices this family made in Zoe Carter’s memoir, Imperfect Endings, are right or wrong, Carter is an undeniably powerful writer, who has an easy way with words on a complex, but timely issue. She has taken the difficult, to say the least, subject of life and death and crafted it into an unforgettable personal story laced with wit, wisdom, humor, compassion, insight, and abundant food for thought. To be honest, when I first picked it up I wondered if I wanted to “go there.” I’m glad I did—I found it incredibly moving.
I know it took more than a little courage for Zoe Carter to write this provocative slice of life. Imperfect Endings meant paring familial façade to the bone and sucking out the marrow, which she did unabashedly.
How does a daughter say, “Yes, Mom, I’ll watch you die slowly by your own hand.” I’ll be a party to your staged sit-in with death.
Hauntingly beautiful are the two words that washed over my soul when I finished reading Zoe Carter’s Imperfect Endings. A true page turner, brought together through a dynamic flow of the highs of love and tenderness, and the lows of anger and sadness, revealing what it takes to be, at once, a mother and a daughter.
I could see both sides as the drama unfolded: the mother’s perspective, as she desired to make her exit —actually to direct it, while maintaining a modicum of dignity; and the three daughters’ reluctance to come to terms with their mother’s wishes and say goodbye to Momma. Throughout much of the memoir, a cloak of angry sadness hung from Zoe’s shoulders—she was deemed the caretaker, ever flying from coast to coast, always at her mother’s beck and call, while growing numb by degrees to her mother’s flirtatious and ever changing dates with death. Zoe was the “good” daughter—but also a woman conflicted by daughterly duties over shadowing those of being a wife to a man trying not to lose his patience, and mother to young daughters of her own, needing her attention.
Fluctuating between flashbacks of childhood memories and present day dilemmas, Zoe creates authentic scenes that strip away allusion to expose the raw reality of the family’s intimate workings. The three daughters’ angst for their parent’s past transgressions and weaknesses was palpable, and their reckoning of their mother’s pretenses and denial, although heartbreakingly understood, at least by two of the sisters, stayed unresolved.
But, in the final days, as their mother, Margaret, slipped away, the atmosphere rang clear with tenderness and acceptance as Zoe’s arms, gently enfolded a feather of a woman as the parade passed by, and songs from her lips sent Momma’s soul soaring.
After you read this book, from a fabulous Red Room author, please come back here and leave a comment to let me know the impact Imperfect Endings made on you. THE STORY WOMAN REMINDS YOU TO WRITE A TRUE AND TELLING TALE ABOUT YOUR MOTHER.