Thursday, June 25, 2009

Accidently on Purpose by Mary F. Pols

Another memoir about a woman in an unexpected position.  I've been wanting to read Pols book for a while having read parts of her blog. While I found her story interesting and compelling, I wanted to be more captivated by her writing. I loved reading about her large Catholic family, her childhood in Maine, how she fell in love with being a movie critic.   I liked learning about life as a self-sufficient woman in San Francisco. I was particularly intrigued by the passages about being a late in life mother at the same time that her parents (who had her particularly late as she was the last of 6 spread out over a number of years) were failing in health. I've always found the phenomenon of the sandwich generation fascinating.  And it is obvious that Mary's parents were larger than life characters.  But I didn't find myself particularly moved by her writing style. I suppose in some ways it was too "journalistic" for my liking.  The structure seemed to make it harder for me to become totally enthralled. Maybe I am just too accustomed to fiction.

Pols book in many ways provides a slice of sociology on modern motherhood.  What is it like to share parenting responsibilities with a young slacker? What is it like to share parenting responsibilities with someone you barely know? What is it like to parent in an untraditional arrangement?  Additionally, it answers questions about raising a child far away from your extended family, and raising a child without a full cadre of grandparents. All of this is fascinating to me personally, as my parents had me late in life and I grew up largely with one grandparent (although I have so many memories of my other two grandparents who I treasured and interacted with constantly until they died when I was 6 and 7).  This book caused me to think about motherhood and my own personal time frame. It made me think about fulfillment and what I desire from family life.  It made me think about society and modern trends.  

It's hard not to want Pols to find a man to complete her life.  It is wonderful that she was able to have a child (at 40) so easily.  It is wonderful that her son has an active and involved father. But since the story unfolds completely from Pol's perspective, its hard not to feel that she deserves more than Matt, even though they are not together.  It seems that she does indeed long for a partner.  I suppose I can't help but think about the trend of single mothers raising children.  I don't have a judgement on whether this is right or wrong for their kids. I just wonder how lonely it must feel at times.  The romantic in me wants everyone to find a mate. The realist in me wonders if a mate is a necessity.

I can remember one review saying that Pols gave Matt irritable bowel syndrome because she stressed him out so much. That wasn't my take on the situation. But one does wonder: What is his perspective on the situation? In the end, it is apparent that Mary is happy with the results of the "best accident" in her life.  And it is obvious that Matt stepped up to the plate and loves Dolan. But, its impossible to know all of what he thought and felt.  It's not Pols job to provide that insight. It's just the over curious part of me that wants a scan of the bigger picture.

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