Thursday, 6 February 2014

The book

I didn't really want to read my Mum's book. But the prospect of her self publishing it without it being checked out seemed worse, so I forced myself to look at it. More in a way of trying to start trying to deal with the mountain of shit that seems to have come my way recently than anything else.

The first half is about my parents' early life, travelling around, but building up to "the tragedy of our family", and lots of references to children dying, and death generally. This is the best bit.

We then get to my bit when my brother dies in a car accident, after he emigrated - the plan was that he was going to start a new life and his longterm partner was going to follow later. About a third of the book deals with the immediate aftermath - incluing how some of us found out. I'm not terribly happy that I've been included in this.

There's also, over the course of the next few chapters, at least two or three viewpoints - I was finding this fairly hard to read - about exactly what happened when my brother died during the accident, from people my mother spoke to afterwards. None of them differ much.

Worse, she goes into a blow by blow account of how my brother's partner found out, references various discussions she had with the partner afterwards, and also includes the entire eulogy that my brother's partner wrote. I liked my brother's partner very much, but we lost touch with her after the funeral, I think for understandable reasons. I very much doubt that Mum has sought her out to get her permission, and the thought that she might stumble across the ebook turns my stomach.

There's a big section which is basically on the people who wronged her after my brother died, including people only tangentially connected with the whole sorry affair. It's just really boring, overly personal, and nobody - including my mother - comes out very well.

This bit finishes up with how she wanted justice and people held to account, and was going to go to the papers but "gave up for the sake of her family".

I'm actually pretty fucked off with all this. As a teenager, we had months and months of waiting on tenterhooks as part of my Mum's crusade to find the truth. I remember being deeply unhappy about it all but bottling it all up, until at least a year after my brother died, when she started talking about going to the papers and I objected. Shortly afterwards, I then found a "to do" list that she'd left on the kitchen table which included "going to the papers". I remember being upset and then her shouting at me for being upset and looking at stuff she'd left in one of the public areas of the house. I really got to the end of my tether with her and was very relieved when I left home.

Reading it all again, apart from bringing up some very unpleasant memories, I don't think that any of it is particularly newsworthy. I don't really understand what she's seeking to gain. Regrettably, people die abroad all the time.

Then there is a lengthy section about my parents travelling to where my brother died, which is mostly quite dull and goes into great detail about the guesthouses they stayed at and what they ate. Then the book goes into how the other holidaymakers at one of the places they stayed were uncomfortable when Mum started telling them about my brother dying, and how this made her feel bad, but she'd done it anyway even although my father told her it might not be the best idea in the world.

The book is also really badly written. The first section is the most interesting, but even then people randomly appear with no introduction. One of my siblings appears on a family holiday but is only born two chapters later. A close relative pops up in one of the final chapters but the reported excitement in seeing him is undermined in that he's never been mentioned before. I know what country they're staying in at various points in the narrative, but only because I'm related to them. The punctuation and spelling are pretty ropey.

I think she's written it as therapy, which is fair enough. But I think putting it online is deeply self centered, and is telling her surviving children its basically up to us to read it before she publically uploads it. One of my sisters is undergoing psychiatric treatment at the moment and, between the book and the HD, I don't really think this is fair on her. I don't think its fair on anyone.

I'm not sure what to do; I think I can reasonably insist that all references to me are deleted unless its rewritten. I think she needs to heavily edit sections dealing with my brother's partner; she's got an unusual name and I'm sure I've found her online, but it looks as if she's moved on with her life and is raising a family with someone else. Fuck knows what she'd make of my mother getting in touch and raking all this up again.

All the way through the narrative, there's a constant moaning about how my mother doesn't want to live in the country the family now reside in.

Still, at least there are no otters in the book.

What would you do?


  1. If only the Otter of Doom would eat the pages of the e-book.
    Well done on reading it so quickly.
    What would I do... I think the fact that it is badly written is an advantage in a way: it might stop people from reading the book for more than a handful of pages. I'm not sure how internet savvy your mother is, and I have a feeling it might be hard to attract readers anyway. (i would do some research on that though)
    Then I would suggest that real names cannot be used without permission, that 'to protect the family' she should at least alter/ make the names ungoogleable.
    I think trying to stop her from publishing could be more trouble than it's worth (especially given the fact that you have mentioned pigheadedness before, multiple times. Deflecting might work, stopping not so much. Maybe warning her to not put (too much) contact details, because of internet weirdos/stalkers/you name it?)

    So sorry that this car keeps crashing over and over.

  2. *hugs* No good advice, but I do agree with Valery. Just want to let you know that someone is here and feels for you.

  3. What would I do? Goodness, I can't think. Do you think your mother would agree to just privately printing/publishing a hard copy for herself? (And members of the family/friends who might want a copy). There are lots of book printing places online (I'm going to print my Lemons Limoncello travel blog into a book as a keepsake) where you can do it privately.

    It's obvious she's written this for therapy (though how helpful that has been is of course another matter), and it sounds like she's always wanted to reach out, so it might be hard to convince her of the benefits of a private publication. But the legal issues of mentioning people by name without their permission, or of any accusations she makes, could get complicated. Would they deter her do you think? Or is it that she has seen this as a way to grieve or somehow get some "closure" (horrible word) and so cannot be deterred?

    I guess it depends on whether your mother can be reasoned with. Calmly, helpfully, pointing out difficult issues, legal issues, the impact on your sister, on you, etc. Or asking her if she has thought of getting a professional to edit it/look over it? Or anything else that might end up as a barrier to publication.

    My final thought is - how computer literate is she? Can you offer to help with the publication, secretly ensuring that it has very limited exposure, delaying etc? That might sound underhand, but I think there comes a time when we have to take control of our parents!

    Really sorry you're having to deal with this, along with everything else in your life at the moment.

  4. I don't have any good advice, but I wanted to say I'm thinking of you and hoping you and your mother can reach some kind of an agreement. I think changing names would be a completely reasonable step. Hugs! Mutemockingbird