Monday, June 06, 2016

Book Review: Determined Weeds (Samuel Jaye Tanner)

Determined Weeds
by: Samuel Jaye Tanner

Genre: Memoir

My mother lost her first three babies. The first was never named. The second, Jayson, was stillborn. Christa was four months premature. She lived one week before passing away in Mom’s arms. My sister Christie was born next. She was also four months premature. Despite assurances that she would not live, Christie left the hospital after an extended stay in an incubator. Christie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, but she survived. Doctors told my mother that she should not try and have any more children. Despite their objections, Mom gave birth to me four years later. 

I was healthy. My father, a Jew for Jesus freak, named me Samuel. My Hebrew name was Sh’muel—this means “God Listens.” I was the answer to my parent’s prayers. 

Mom started drinking after I turned four. She was an alcoholic by the time I was seven. This was when my parents got a divorce. My father was awarded custody of my sister and me because Mom was destroying herself. 

Over twenty years after Mom left me, her second husband—my stepfather Jim—shot himself in the head. I tried to insert myself back into my mother’s life. I wanted to help this woman who had lived through so much trauma. Mom refused my help, choosing alcohol and pain pills instead of a relationship with her son. 

A mother’s love is a powerful force. Despite Mom’s determination, I loved her. In fact, Mom’s obstinacy was responsible for my birth. She was determined to have her own way. This was true when it came to creating life as well as destroying it. 

This book is a eulogy for my mother. It is the story of how I learned to take the good that was in her, separate it from the bad, and cope with her absence. This is a story of moving forward in an enormous, complicated universe.

I'm not going to lie to you guys....I had a really hard time accepting this request. My hesitation had absolutely nothing to do with the material, and everything to do with the blurb hinting that Samuel's story would be very similar to my own. Did I really want to read something that I'd already pretty much lived?!?!? I wasn't sure. Even after I began reading Determined Weeds, I still couldn't help but feel that reading it would end up being a mistake. It wasn' wasn't.....IT WASN'T!

Samuel Jaye Tanner wrote a beautiful story about his less than ideal life. He figured out a way to accept his mother for who she was, to not expect more of her than she was willing to give, and to use the situations that he endured as an innocent child to mold himself into a far better parent. He reminds us that, although we don't get to pick our parents, we get to choose how we let them affect our lives.

Get your copy on Amazon

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