I’m just going to provide you with the Goodreads blurb for Landslide, because I honestly have no idea how to blurb essay collections.
Minna Proctor’s LANDSLIDE is a charismatic, darkly funny collection of linked essays which primarily explore the author’s complicated relationship with her mother, who was diagnosed with cancer at age 57 and died a decade later. A subtle exploration of the ways in which their fierce mother-daughter connection became the -prime mover- in Proctor’s life, these lively essays also cover the trials and triumphs of Proctor’s own life–her reckless youth, the bumpy start and quick dissolution of her first marriage, the pleasure she takes from her two children, the health scares that threaten to take her hard earned pleasures away, the mythology she constructs in her writing, and the confounding experience of reconciling with her mother after her death. Through these essays, Proctor pushes against her own memory and challenges her own narrative. -We all have totemic stories, – she writes. -The way we choose them–and then choose to tell them–is more important ultimately than the actual events.- In LANDSLIDE, Proctor bewitchingly examines the twists and turns of life with great flair, but without artifice or self-consciousness–there is a sense of intimacy as if Proctor is telling these stories only to you.
The essays in Landslide are short and so it feels difficult to really put my finger on how I feel about the collection as a whole. I think it would be a really good memoir to read one essay at a time, with breaks in between to sit with some of the thoughts Minna Zallman Proctor brings up. It’s both about her mother as described in the blurb and not. It’s an interesting reflection on what she thinks has affected both who she is and how she thinks about her life.
Like the blurb suggests, she spends a lot of time in this collection of essays devoted to thinking about how her perspective is just that–hers–and that other people in her life would tell a story of the same event very differently. For example, she talks about her first visit to her therapist and how they began the session with the standard life story delivery. She told the story of her high school graduation, which she said no one in her family attended. Later she learned that her mother had a different perspective of that life event. I really enjoyed this aspect of her essays.
Of course, there were some things that I did not like as much. Sometimes her stories would seem disjointed, which, on the one hand, made some amount of sense for the story and on the other hand was not personally appealing. Overall, I think this is a non-fiction essay collection that I think was well-written and is one I would recommend to those who appreciate unique story-telling devices and deep introspection.
For me, personally, I rated this book a four out of five because, for one thing, it’s difficult to rate someone telling their own story and for another, I enjoyed enough of the stories to for that rating to feel fair to me. Additionally, this book made me appreciative anew of how much I adore my mother and how she has never missed an important event in my life, even when the logistics of making it happen were a nightmare for her. I recognize my good fortune in having parents that I love and adore and who have always let me know that I am loved. Books like this serve as a good reminder though when I might otherwise be inclined to take them for granted.
If you read it, let me know what you think!