Hope Edelman, best selling author of five books including the New York Times Motherless Daughters read from The Possibility of Everything at Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica. Not expecting to see me there, she greeted me with a warm, open-armed “Hannah” with so much enthusiasm she’s hard to ignore.
Hope’s engrossing, magical memoir takes us on the journey of a pragmatic woman who goes from conventional, traditional beliefs to someone willing to spend a week in Central America to delve into what can’t always be seen by the human eye. She’s a woman open to exploration, discovery, and not staying in the box of what our western culture prescribes. It’s an expressive, beautifully written story where, her marriage strained by a husband working sixteen hours a day launching a dot-com company, we see an honest, observant woman searching for answers. Her passages of reflection helped me to understand a mother driven to do anything to help her daughter.
Edelman’s daughter Maya is having violent outbursts that are being caused by her imaginary friend Dodo. Many mothers would be quick to put their child on medication for temper tantrums. That Edelman was willing to go to another country, be open to another culture to find an unorthodox remedy, which she does, brought tears to my eyes. As someone who has always traveled trying to find questions about who I am, Hope’s story deeply resonated. For anyone who’s tried to find answers about who they are by going outside the box, this book is buried treasure as she goes deeper. She’s self aware, not blaming, probing and questioning everything while sharing her insights on marriage, motherhood and faith. Her book makes you feel as if you are her friend.
She describes her cushy life with a lovely home and a nanny but “Despite the unbridled affluence of the late 1990s, or perhaps because of it, people were deeply dissatisfied. They’d begun the decade as devotees at the altar of secular materialism, only to discover that the tasks of acquiring and the responsibilities of having were a hollow substitute for authentic experience, and they were left feeling unmoored. They had everything they could possibly need and in many cases more, yet they were nonetheless ravaged by ennui. They were clinically depressed”. Hope’s story was more than the story of the adventure of seeking a cure for their daughter. It is the story of a well educated woman that “had it all” but is unfulfilled because she no longer takes part in the modern belief of materialism and the duties of being a good wife. This is her deep spiritual journey and as we go along on Edelman’s ride we are able to see ourselves, if we’re willing to do so. She shares her private thoughts outloud, which takes a courageous person. Her honesty about her inner conflict, instead of hiding her true self, is what makes this book such a revelatory journey. A vivid description of her feelings was present throughout.
“I still have no idea how it’s possible to believe in the potential of something while simultaneously refusing it the right to exist, but it is.” This is Hope. Not defining people or places with a box. Everything is not.
Hope has written numerous memoirs about being a motherless daughter. Early mother loss left her emotionally crippled and in a continuous state of healing. The loss has made Edelman a mother who will go to any length to be the best mother she can.
Edelman’s honest, self deprecating sense of humor had me laughing out loud in Motherless Daughters and it’s here as well. She doesn’t have to try to be funny. She just is. Where she describes her attempt to figure out what is going on with Maya and says “That’s weird. There’s no entry for imaginary friends”. I can see Edelman down on the carpet, flipping through books to find the answer and I laugh at her candor.
Hope’s ability to not judge is a breath of fresh air. At a three-day writing workshop with Hope earlier this year, I shared with her my deepest secrets and she didn’t bat an eye. I thanked her for not judging me later. Her reply? “Judgment? Pleh. You should see some of the stories that have come my way. I stopped judging anyone long ago.” I wasn’t ready to go deep to write an authentic piece but because of Hope’s accessibility and caring, I now feel free to do so. I feel guided with her as my writing instructor. She didn’t blink at my request to “Please print out my pages on paper and use a red pen to address all issues”. Early mother loss sometimes produces quirkiness which Hope understands all too well. Falling off buildings was easy compared to being honest about my past. Hope’s accepting me for who I am has taught me not to be scared to write it down.