counter create hit Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir in Pieces - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir in Pieces

Availability: Ready to download

Discovered by Michael Ondaatje, Davies’ dazzling literary memoir has shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott, and Jenny Lawson. Some women are born mothers, some achieve motherhood, others have motherhood thrust upon them. Dawn Davies is in the third category. A six-foot-tall divorcee, she isn’t chatty, couldn’t care less about anyone’s potty training progress, doesn’t care to sha Discovered by Michael Ondaatje, Davies’ dazzling literary memoir has shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott, and Jenny Lawson. Some women are born mothers, some achieve motherhood, others have motherhood thrust upon them. Dawn Davies is in the third category. A six-foot-tall divorcee, she isn’t chatty, couldn’t care less about anyone’s potty training progress, doesn’t care to share her own children’s milestones with people who don’t love them. But even if she has never fit in with other moms, she has raised three children with her own particular brand of fierce, unflagging love. In stories that cut to the quick, we see Davies grow from a young girl who moves to a new town every couple of years; to a misfit teenager who finds solace in a local music scene; to an adrift twenty-something who summons inner strength as she holds the hand of a dying stranger; to a woman dealing with difficult pregnancies and post-partum depression. And in her powerful titular story, we see Davies struggling with the weight of knowing that her son is deeply troubled. Mothers of Sparta is not a blow-by-blow of Davies’ life but rather an examination of the exquisite and often painful moments of a life, the moments we look back on and say, That one, that one mattered. Straddling the fence between humor and, well…not humor, Davies has written a book about what it’s like to be a woman trying to carve a place for herself in the world, no matter how unyielding the rock can be.


Compare

Discovered by Michael Ondaatje, Davies’ dazzling literary memoir has shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott, and Jenny Lawson. Some women are born mothers, some achieve motherhood, others have motherhood thrust upon them. Dawn Davies is in the third category. A six-foot-tall divorcee, she isn’t chatty, couldn’t care less about anyone’s potty training progress, doesn’t care to sha Discovered by Michael Ondaatje, Davies’ dazzling literary memoir has shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott, and Jenny Lawson. Some women are born mothers, some achieve motherhood, others have motherhood thrust upon them. Dawn Davies is in the third category. A six-foot-tall divorcee, she isn’t chatty, couldn’t care less about anyone’s potty training progress, doesn’t care to share her own children’s milestones with people who don’t love them. But even if she has never fit in with other moms, she has raised three children with her own particular brand of fierce, unflagging love. In stories that cut to the quick, we see Davies grow from a young girl who moves to a new town every couple of years; to a misfit teenager who finds solace in a local music scene; to an adrift twenty-something who summons inner strength as she holds the hand of a dying stranger; to a woman dealing with difficult pregnancies and post-partum depression. And in her powerful titular story, we see Davies struggling with the weight of knowing that her son is deeply troubled. Mothers of Sparta is not a blow-by-blow of Davies’ life but rather an examination of the exquisite and often painful moments of a life, the moments we look back on and say, That one, that one mattered. Straddling the fence between humor and, well…not humor, Davies has written a book about what it’s like to be a woman trying to carve a place for herself in the world, no matter how unyielding the rock can be.

30 review for Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir in Pieces

  1. 4 out of 5

    Selena

    I received a free ARC copy of Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies from Goodreads for my honest review. Mothers of Sparta is a collection of sad and funny personal essays that define Dawn Davies' life. This is a very different book and although I did find it very sad, it is brilliantly written. I received a free ARC copy of Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies from Goodreads for my honest review. Mothers of Sparta is a collection of sad and funny personal essays that define Dawn Davies' life. This is a very different book and although I did find it very sad, it is brilliantly written.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    This is the first book I have read that both wrenches your gut with heartbreak and makes you laugh out loud at the humor at the same time. Dawn Davies reveals her life in graphic detail, all her most intimate thoughts on childbirth, divorce, raising a blended family and a life full of pets. She writes her memoir in loosely connected chapters from various points in her life. Some are hilarious accounts of everyday life events interspersed with tragic and painful events which are unique to Ms. Dav This is the first book I have read that both wrenches your gut with heartbreak and makes you laugh out loud at the humor at the same time. Dawn Davies reveals her life in graphic detail, all her most intimate thoughts on childbirth, divorce, raising a blended family and a life full of pets. She writes her memoir in loosely connected chapters from various points in her life. Some are hilarious accounts of everyday life events interspersed with tragic and painful events which are unique to Ms. Davies. Just when you think this has been an extraordinarily well-written and entertaining memoir of life’s ups and downs, she charges forward with an all revealing ending which brings your heart to a standstill. Davies says she listened to the song “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” during her writing. She claims these words to be a warning for the memoirist. However, she left very little unsaid in her story. She is brazenly honest about the most brutal aspects of her life. I highly recommend this book but be forewarned that it will not “let you go” after reading it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amy Morgan

    Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. Mothers of Sparta was an engaging and entertaining read. Dawn Davies tells the story of her life from her childhood that was not made easy as she moved towns every couple of years and never seemed to quite fit in - whether it was with the kids in each new town or the other people she meets as she progresses into motherhood. We see the moments of Dawn's life through the stories in this book that tealky shaped her life. From her sense of instabili Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. Mothers of Sparta was an engaging and entertaining read. Dawn Davies tells the story of her life from her childhood that was not made easy as she moved towns every couple of years and never seemed to quite fit in - whether it was with the kids in each new town or the other people she meets as she progresses into motherhood. We see the moments of Dawn's life through the stories in this book that tealky shaped her life. From her sense of instability in her childhood to holding the hand of a dying stranger to difficult pregnancies and a marriage doomed from the start to finding out her youngest son is severely troubled to a chance st starting over and finding a way out of the darkness and back into the light. Davie's struggles are something many can relate to and she tells her stories in a strong and often humorous voice.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sterlingcindysu

    Edited 12/22/19--one of my top 10 of 2019 One extra star for being brave on the topic covered in the title short story. It's next to the end and I can see why--I don't think I would have enjoyed the more humorous stories if that one had come first. Whatever sorrow and regret you feel for her son, it's multiplied 10x for the mother. I know I could not do what she does on a daily basis. I think I would have given up long ago for my health. Many biographies and autobiographies deal with courage but Edited 12/22/19--one of my top 10 of 2019 One extra star for being brave on the topic covered in the title short story. It's next to the end and I can see why--I don't think I would have enjoyed the more humorous stories if that one had come first. Whatever sorrow and regret you feel for her son, it's multiplied 10x for the mother. I know I could not do what she does on a daily basis. I think I would have given up long ago for my health. Many biographies and autobiographies deal with courage but usually it's a one time, very short endurance of time...but not in this case. I will remember Mothers of Sparta for a long time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Wells

    Praise for an amazing book written by a mom with a child with brain injury.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carin

    I do love a memoir, so even though this is a memoir in a series of essays instead of a straight narrative, I was excited. Even though it was about motherhood, I was still really looking forward to it. And I liked the first few essays a lot. Ms. Davies is not a typical soccer mom and she doesn't make any excuses for that. The story about all the household pets that kept dying was hilarious (yes, also sad. But also funny.) And the story about when she was 20-ish and an accident happened right in f I do love a memoir, so even though this is a memoir in a series of essays instead of a straight narrative, I was excited. Even though it was about motherhood, I was still really looking forward to it. And I liked the first few essays a lot. Ms. Davies is not a typical soccer mom and she doesn't make any excuses for that. The story about all the household pets that kept dying was hilarious (yes, also sad. But also funny.) And the story about when she was 20-ish and an accident happened right in front of her, and she helped a woman as she lay dying, was riveting. But then there were a couple of lightweight essays, including one about being a soccer mom. From a woman who supposedly wasn't a soccer mom at all! I started to get annoyed, and then the essay "Mothers of Sparta" followed, and it is harrowing. It turns out that Dawn's son, who isn't mentioned but in passing in the book up to this point (mostly her daughters are talked about), has severe problems. He was born with a cleft palate, he has health issues, and also mental health issues. As he grows up, they only get to be bigger problems. In the media, we only ever see little kids with problems, or old people who have been institutionalized. There is an enormous population of people dealing with people who are physically bigger than them, who can't be locked down, who their families don't want to institutionalize (if there even were institutions that would keep them safe and well cared for which is dubious). What do you do when you have a very large 20-something who does not understand that kiddie porn is a problem? Who is very good with computers and can get around any parental controls and even the removal of electronic devices? Not only could he be arrested, but so could you. And what if he were to try to act on these feelings he doesn't understand, and doesn't understand are wrong? Personally, I wish that essay had been the entire book. I wish it had been expanded and extrapolated on, and not relegated to being similar in weight to a story about pets or soccer. I do get that having it right after the fluffy soccer essay made the impact greater, but that just wasn't necessary—it has a huge impact by itself. I can see the author's point that she is so much more than her biggest problem, and her family is more than their biggest problem, and her life has both been centered around trying to keep her son safe (and keep the world safe from her son) but also it's been centered around not being centered around that. She doesn't want her son's problems to be the sole focus of her life and her daughters' lives, understandably. And yet. And yet. In Sparta, when a baby is born, the local priests would come and inspect it. If the baby wasn't perfect, it would be cast into a pit to die. Was that the cruelest thing in the world, or perhaps a brutal kindness? Dawn knows her son would have been relegated to the pit. And she would have fought viciously for him to survive. And yet, to what end? The ethical and moral questions she brings up are almost never discussed, certainly not this honestly by someone in the midst of them, and they really do need to be discussed. As more health issues are diagnosed and more mental health issues come into the open, we need to look them in the face and really deal with them, not sweep them under the rug so long as they are someone else's problem. This essay is a vital and oh so necessary one that everyone should read. It's raw and inspiring and honest to the core. The book overall is quite good, but just wait until you get to this essay that makes everything worthwhile.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Virginia Macgregor

    I have a great deal of time for writers who write honestly about motherhood. Well, about life, really. And for those who write beautifully too; I have a weak spot for writing that straddles the line between prose and poetry. Dawn Davies does both these things (writes honesty; writes beautifully) and oh so much more in her memoir, Mothers of Sparta. Her writing is brave and raw and physical. She uses sparklingly original metaphors. The kind of metaphors that knock you sideways and make you feel g I have a great deal of time for writers who write honestly about motherhood. Well, about life, really. And for those who write beautifully too; I have a weak spot for writing that straddles the line between prose and poetry. Dawn Davies does both these things (writes honesty; writes beautifully) and oh so much more in her memoir, Mothers of Sparta. Her writing is brave and raw and physical. She uses sparklingly original metaphors. The kind of metaphors that knock you sideways and make you feel grateful to the writer for enlarging your experience of what you thought you knew and understood. Her writing never flinches from telling it how it really is, no matter how hard it is to receive – and, I imagine, to write. If good writing is truth, then this good writing indeed. In her ‘memoir in pieces’ Dawn Davies writes beautiful, lyrical essays. And in the spirit of these non-linear fragments that nevertheless create a whole, a life, let me offer up some of the pieces that I most enjoyed. In her opening essay, Night Swim, Davies writes about glimpsing the futures of her daughters as she watches them swim at night – and accepting the pain that, ‘They will never stay yours, for they weren’t yours to begin with. One day they will leave you, shoot off into the sky, and take their place in the bigger constellation. And it’s your job to let it go. Let it go. Let it go. It’s gone.’ I have two little girls, like she does. Every day, I get a glimpse of their beauty and of how fleetingly they are mine. In this, and many other of the essays, I felt like she was writing straight to my heart. Elsewhere, Davies writes about her parents’ divorce which happens: 'as quickly as a summer storm, engineering a slow family tailspin that will take years to right.' She writes of a love that ended before it had had the chance to live as a man she dated, ‘rode his motorcycle up and down a mountain at high speed until he drove himself into an unmarked construction hole at two in the morning.’ Davies is the first writer to describe pregnancy in way that I can fully identify with: ‘I am pregnant, the kind of pregnant where the baby is crowding your breath and it feels like you are sucking air through a snorkel, and there is no room in your thorax because a human being that is not you, yet is a little bit you, is taking up the room where your guts should be spreading out, relaxing, enjoying the weekend…’ And in the same essay, she writes about how, heavily pregnant, she realises that her marriage is a lie. That she and her husband don’t know each other at all. And how lonely that is. She writes a heart-breaking account of trying to make a pie from scratch (over and over – it keeps going wrong) to impress her in-laws when she has a newborn in tow and can barely keep her eyes open from sleep-deprivation. This essay shows another aspect of Davies’s skill as a writer: that she writes as meaningfully about the failure to make a pie as she does about marriage and divorce and motherhood. And there is truth in that too, because life, of course, is full of both the mundane and the extraordinary. In a highly original essay, Davies describing divorce through the structure of a military field manual from, ‘2. MANAGING THE DECOMPOSITION OF CASUALTIES AFTER BATTLE’ to the humorous, ‘9. BREAKING THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT’ when she finds love again. Perhaps the most moving sentence in this mostly humorous essay, is a comment on how her divorce affected her children; how their small, physical bodies broke down from the stress and sadness at having their family torn apart: ‘The emotions of what we had been through were coming out of their orifices, like shrapnel working its way through skin.’ If you’re starting to think that all this is a bit too heavy-going, move on to her essay entitled, Men I Would Have Slept With. Pages of the famous and not famous and why she would have liked to slip between their sheets, from Jason Bateman to Anton Chekov to some she calls, 'Doctor, First-Year Resident, Emergency Room, North Florida.' Her reasons for wanting to sleep with these men are hilarious and compelling. This is something else that I love about Dawn Davies. Her ability to place light and shade side by side in a way that makes you realise that one cannot live without the other. Humour and tragedy are a co-dependent ecosystem; tears and laughter share a vital organ. Perhaps most harrowingly, Davies writes about physical pain. I live in a state suffering from an opioid epidemic. The other day, on the radio, I heard a woman say that we were all just a breath away from becoming an addict. That an accident or illness could tip any of us over the edge into dependency on pain medication that could lead us to places that we never thought we would go. Pain is indiscriminate in its victims. Dawn Davies talks about the cocktail of Ambien and Percocet which brought her so close to the edge that she had to ask her husband to flush away the pills. She writes of pain and drugs in this way: ‘We take drugs to avoid pain, we avoid pain because we are afraid of losing control, and we lose control trying not to feel pain. The pain eats the drugs, the drugs eats the anxiety, the anxiety eats the pain, and we are left with a roil of snakes shaped like a Celtic knot, each with another’s tail in its dirty little mouth. Everything has a price.’ A brilliant and truthful piece of writing, which captures this complicated and tragic dilemma perfectly. Again, a little more humorously, though tragically too, Davies writes about the heartbreak of adopting a broken, damaged, feral dog that, in the end, she has to take away from her children for their safety. She writes beautifully when she talks of how she had to lie to them about taking Moose, the dog, away: ‘Children can hope for a long time without it burning their hands, far longer than adults can, which is what allows them to complete the act of growing up in a world where people lie, where people let you down all the time, a world where love isn’t always enough, a world where, sometimes, you have to give up on someone else in order to save yourself. Yet losing this kind of hope can break a child’s heart. This is why parents lie to their kids. Because they aren’t ready to see them lose hope. I understood this, which is why I decided I would like to my children about Moose.’ A few lines on she writes, she writes these stunning and haunting lines about a dream she has for where she would like to take this dog she has to destroy: ‘We would drive west, this sick dog and I, towards the Everglades, a magical part of Florida where the air felt new, and zummed with ozone and post-rain plant juices, mosses, and paisley-shaped snake-made eddies, swirling quietly in watered curves, the slicing of wind in the grass, where the shaded undersides of things took away your heat, put out your fire.’ Davies writes as beautifully about the natural world as she does about her physical body and her emotional landscape. In the last few essays of the memoir, Dawn writes humorously about taking on the rather unexpected role of a soccer mom. My four year old daughter took part in her first soccer class - albeit a very informal one - last Saturday. My husband took her with our one year old strapped to his body in a sling. He said that he felt like a soccer mom.Another all-American experience we English folk will have to get used to. Anyway, back to Davies. She is not a natural soccer mom. Like me, she would probably rather be reading a good book than standing on the side of a pitch yelling her lungs out as her offspring gets close to the ball. But that's another funny thing about motherhood. Davies describes how it transforms us and pushes us into being creatures that we barely recognise. Still on the subject of parenthood, she writes with painful and refreshing honesty about those times when you just can't take it anymore and yet realise that, in this area of life, almost like no other, you have no choice. You have to stick it out. You can't give them back. Or walk out. Well, you can, but that's a whole other story. Interestingly, when I exchanged some messages with Dawn Davies, late one night when I should have been sleeping, I told her about my second novel, The Return of Norah Wells and that it was about a young mother who walks out on her family and comes back years later expecting to pick up where she left off. She said that she had a half written novel in a drawer about a mother who walks out. We're clearly on the same wavelength. I also experienced a jolt of joy when she said that she'd read my debut, What Milo Saw, a few years ago. Not many Americans have. So, Davies writes about this sense of entrapment that you can feel as a mother: It’s as if you got drunk and joined the Marines on a lark and now you want out, only there is no way out without going to prison. Balance this with the great love she has for her daughters, expressed in Night Swim and you will see that Davies likes to hold the paradoxes of life and experience up to light and to say: it’s both. Parenting is the most beautiful experience and the greatest gift and also, at times, hell. Later, she writes about ordering a wedding dress on the cheap from china for her daughter which she ends up selling in a Hooters parking lot for fifty bucks after her daughter – thank goodness – decides not to marry at twenty but to stay at college and pursue her own, glittering ambitions. There is the story of another dog who kills all the family pets and how it is somehow tragically and hilariously always her fault. Of all the trouble he caused. Of how her daughters always blamed her. And how they sobbed on the phone when she announced that he had died. And this leads her to think about the life that was and how much she misses it and how the silence, ‘made my head hurt.’ How even when something infuriatingly annoying and in the case of this dog, destructive, goes, something good is always lost too. And, of course, the controversial and absolutely heart breaking penultimate essay, the title essay: Mothers of Sparta, in which Davies confronts the reality of having given birth to a child damaged both physically and emotionally and, worse than this, a child capable of and seemingly numb to hurting others. She uses the Sparta, the city in ancient Greece, in which, if a baby did not pass the test of the elders – if he was not perfect in mind, body, soul and spirit, if there was any sign that he would be anything less than a greater and noble warrior, he was throw into a pit called the Apothetae, where he would, ‘either die from the fall or from exposure, or be eaten by animals.’ In this essay, Davies asks one of the greatest moral questions of all time is raised: is it possible to love a sociopath. A question that the mother of every murderer or paedophile or rapist or school shooter has had to face. A question that reminds me of the premise behind the hugely successful novel, We Need To Talk About Kevin. In that novel, the mother’s problem was that she didn’t love her child and felt that this might be responsible for his sociopathy, that somehow, right from the start, he had absorbed her lack of love and that it had made him evil. Davies’s essay is subtler than this. Of course she still loves her son: ‘I love my son with a weakness and fierceness at the same time.’ Weakness because mothers cannot help but love our children. Fierceness because, as mothers, we are always determined to find a way to save our children. This review is longer than most. That is because this is a very special book. A rare book. One in which the content is as beautifully crafted as the style; one which spans the whole gamut of human emotions; one that speaks right to our times – to what it means to be a mother, a wife, a woman, a daughter, a human being – and yet is universal, too. Hence Sparta. I hope that I will see this book become a bestseller. It deserves at least that.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karyl

    This book has just skyrocketed to the top of my all-time favorite books. I will never forget this book. It's that good. I related so much to a great deal of this book, from the moving around constantly as a kid, to trying to fit in to a new school with new ways of doing things (what was "cool" in your previous school is now totally pretentious), to feeling like an awkward failure most of the time, to wanting to go to graduate school but being too intimidated to even apply (although Davies has one This book has just skyrocketed to the top of my all-time favorite books. I will never forget this book. It's that good. I related so much to a great deal of this book, from the moving around constantly as a kid, to trying to fit in to a new school with new ways of doing things (what was "cool" in your previous school is now totally pretentious), to feeling like an awkward failure most of the time, to wanting to go to graduate school but being too intimidated to even apply (although Davies has one up on me, as she managed to apply and graduate), to admitting that motherhood is something that's so very hard but so very worth it at the same time. This memoir isn't told chronologically; instead, it's a series of events that occurred throughout Davies's life. But it's honest and so raw that you want to figure out a way to become her friend and invite her over for coffee because you feel like she's that rare person that will actually fully grok who you are as a person. Sometimes as I read, I would nod my head in solidarity. Sometimes I would laugh at loud because her writing is so witty and funny. But the chapter for which the book is titled absolutely ripped my heart out. To hear her honesty regarding her son (spoiler alert: in the author's note she does indicate that she published his story with his permission) and his mental health challenges makes you want to build a blanket fort for her to hide in for even just a few minutes. A mother's love can never be denied, even as she hates the behavior of the son, behavior he cannot help but is still responsible for. I absolutely devoured this book. I wanted to do nothing but read and read and read, though at some point I wanted to put the book down just so I could make it last longer. My hat is off to you, Dawn Davies. I'd like to be someone like you when I grow up.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Keegan

    I saw the author on an interview and I had to read this book. I was set to give this 3 stars until the last 2 chapters. I knew she had written about her son but wow. Those 2 chapters WERE the book for me

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    This is a light read. I breezed through this book in almost one sitting. Although, I will tell you that there were a few moments that were few and far between that I really liked reading about and can remember. Otherwise, the majority of the book was "fine". Not that I am taking anything away from the author and her story but when I am reading a memoir, I want to connect on a personal and emotional level. I really did not experience this while reading this book. Which was sad as I did think that This is a light read. I breezed through this book in almost one sitting. Although, I will tell you that there were a few moments that were few and far between that I really liked reading about and can remember. Otherwise, the majority of the book was "fine". Not that I am taking anything away from the author and her story but when I am reading a memoir, I want to connect on a personal and emotional level. I really did not experience this while reading this book. Which was sad as I did think that Ms. Davies was getting there. The humorist moments where gems. Overall, this book did not do it for me but it might for someone else.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    This book wasn't, in fact, a memoir, but instead a series of personal essays written by a woman who has not had an easy life. Although well written, the essays were not at all cohesive in nature. Some were comical while others were dramatic, and others still were serious cries for help. Of special note were the essays about Davies's first marriage, first pregnancy, and her divorce. And of course, the essay about her son (my dear god!), was like nothing I've ever read before. Other essays in the This book wasn't, in fact, a memoir, but instead a series of personal essays written by a woman who has not had an easy life. Although well written, the essays were not at all cohesive in nature. Some were comical while others were dramatic, and others still were serious cries for help. Of special note were the essays about Davies's first marriage, first pregnancy, and her divorce. And of course, the essay about her son (my dear god!), was like nothing I've ever read before. Other essays in the book were much less remarkable though, and I would have much preferred that she focused on her ill-fated marriage, the serious challenges of raising her son, and the toll it all took on her family and on her health; it would have made for one hell of a memoir. Dawn Davies is witty and she's a very good writer -- and let's face it -- she has been to hell and back with her son and yet she remains fiercely loyal and protective of him. And while I greatly admire her for that, I had a hard time making sense of it all when I read about the family's pet history. What kind of woman continues to bring small pets into a home where the family dog takes pleasure in killing them? Who insists on letting small pets have the run of the house and then "forgets" to close the door where the blood-thirsty dog is supposedly locked in? I lost count of the number of birds, rats, and hamsters that were killed under Dawn's watch, and I began to wonder if there was some sort of passive-aggressive acting-out on her part at work there. Though Davies seems to take in stride the terrible hand she was dealt, and though she did not write the book to elicit pity from her readers, one can't help but rail at the system and how few choices there are available to mothers of adult children who are unfit for society. I for one, would love to see Davies become a spokesperson for mental health and bring to the forefront the serious need for better treatment options.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kenzee

    *I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway* Ugh. I'm torn with this book. There are parts of it that are really interesting and well-written. But then there are sections, like the first chapter for example, that are legitimately painful to get through. I almost put it down right then and there. It came across really pretentious, like the author was trying far too hard to show she was a good writer (not necessary, she is). When I read a memoir, I want to feel emotionally connected to the author - an *I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway* Ugh. I'm torn with this book. There are parts of it that are really interesting and well-written. But then there are sections, like the first chapter for example, that are legitimately painful to get through. I almost put it down right then and there. It came across really pretentious, like the author was trying far too hard to show she was a good writer (not necessary, she is). When I read a memoir, I want to feel emotionally connected to the author - and honestly, it was tough on this one. Chapters like the first one, the part where she pretended she was a Chinese dressmaker (wth?), the list of men she should sleep with (honestly, not that interesting), to name a few pulled me out of her story. And then there are decisions she makes that I just can't understand, namely the series of small pets she kept bringing into her home. I won't explain what happened, but honestly, it was the SAME EXACT thing every time. Seriously - that just made me angry. That isn't being an optimist or having an idealistic nature or whatever garbage line she used to rationalize it. That was cruel, irresponsible, selfish, and honestly plain stupid. I can't connect with someone like that. Ever. I did find myself drawn in at the end when she discussed her son. I felt for her and she has my respect simply for the fact that her love is truly unconditional. I've seen parents disown kids for choosing a college major they don't approve of, or a spouse they don't like. And yet here she stands, loving a son who has done some truly horrific things and lacks the ability to feel any guilt over them. Wow. But this wasn't enough to tip the book over into something great for me. The book has its moments, the author has skill, but it was still mostly lackluster for me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Three and a half stars. The book jacket for Dawn Davies' essays led me to believe this would be a series of essays about an angst-filled and reluctant mother, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a set of eclectic personal essays that range in topics and tone. The essays are not necessarily sequential and the end result is a kaleidoscopic view of Davies' life - she honestly reveals both heart-breaking and humorous stories of I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Three and a half stars. The book jacket for Dawn Davies' essays led me to believe this would be a series of essays about an angst-filled and reluctant mother, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a set of eclectic personal essays that range in topics and tone. The essays are not necessarily sequential and the end result is a kaleidoscopic view of Davies' life - she honestly reveals both heart-breaking and humorous stories of her life without all of the connective tissue that can sometimes bog down a typical memoir. The essays that resonate the most are those at the beginning and end of the collection where she honestly explores loss, death, illness and parenting in trying circumstances. Many of the essays do explore parenting but I would not describe this as a book about motherhood, nor does Davies ever appear as the reluctant mother the book jacket implies; rather she is devoted and often easy to relate to. The essays in the middle of the collection are often funny but some felt like "filler" essays of the type you might read in a women's magazine. However, the biggest detractor to the book was Davies' habit of slipping into 2nd person perspective when relating personal stories, sometimes for whole essays and sometimes for short passages. Still, Davies' heart and talent shine throughout and this is a lovely collection.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    3.5/5 I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway. I'm torn on this one. It was a well-written quick read and the author's life is interesting, but I can't get over the fact that she was the cause of death for 4 hamsters and 4 (?) pet birds. I know, a weird thing to fixate on, but it bothered me in a memoir about being an mom who would do anything for her kids (but not their pets?). Anyway, the title essay deals with heavy stuff, so you've been warned. It is very well done and I'm curiou 3.5/5 I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway. I'm torn on this one. It was a well-written quick read and the author's life is interesting, but I can't get over the fact that she was the cause of death for 4 hamsters and 4 (?) pet birds. I know, a weird thing to fixate on, but it bothered me in a memoir about being an mom who would do anything for her kids (but not their pets?). Anyway, the title essay deals with heavy stuff, so you've been warned. It is very well done and I'm curious if things have changed since the book was printed. I do think a lot of people will identify with her stories. I really enjoyed reading about her nomad childhood, time in Boston, post-divorce poverty, the story about her engaged daughter... But the tone shift from mildly funny to super serious (and so many medical/gory details along the way) was a bit much for me, personally. At the end of the day, I appreciate her honesty and I'm glad I read it!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura Schrillo

    I have read the other reviews of this book and I guess I am the exception. I hated this from the first sentence but I tried to read on. The first sentence by the way is this gem, "It is a moonless night, dark and rare, and the heat is oppressive, the kind of heat where a deep breath leaves you unsatisfied, suspicious that there was nothing life-giving at all in what you've inhaled, and you are left air-hungry, wet at the pits, forehead greasy with sweat, wishing for the night to be over, for you I have read the other reviews of this book and I guess I am the exception. I hated this from the first sentence but I tried to read on. The first sentence by the way is this gem, "It is a moonless night, dark and rare, and the heat is oppressive, the kind of heat where a deep breath leaves you unsatisfied, suspicious that there was nothing life-giving at all in what you've inhaled, and you are left air-hungry, wet at the pits, forehead greasy with sweat, wishing for the night to be over, for your daughters to exhaust their energy, to cool their dense, hot centers enough to sleep for one more night in this summer that seems to stretch into your future like a planetary ring full of debris, circling forever around something it can't escape.". Yes that is one sentence. It goes on like that for another 260 pages. I tried but I gave up by page 119. I cannot figure out how this book got by an editor.

  16. 4 out of 5

    olga-maria

    A stunning memoir made up of stunning stand-alone essays, most of which have been published in journals. The overarching story covers everything from the narrator's own childhood, to her two marriages, and the most excruciating challenges motherhood could possibly ever offer. Plus excruciating personal, physical challenges. Plus, it's art made out of words. It's moving, exciting, inspiring... So, so good. I'm going to go write now. PS-I did get to meet with the author and study writing with her a A stunning memoir made up of stunning stand-alone essays, most of which have been published in journals. The overarching story covers everything from the narrator's own childhood, to her two marriages, and the most excruciating challenges motherhood could possibly ever offer. Plus excruciating personal, physical challenges. Plus, it's art made out of words. It's moving, exciting, inspiring... So, so good. I'm going to go write now. PS-I did get to meet with the author and study writing with her a few weeks ago at a creative nonfiction workshop, so she inspires me in more ways than one. Dawn Davies is just as good a teacher as she is an author! Super grateful for her instruction and encouragement!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jordana Horn Gordon

    This is one of the best books I have ever read. I wish everyone would read this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Woodman York

    I received an advance copy of this book through a giveaway on Goodreads. The book seemed slow to start, and disjointed, as the timeline was not linear. I think I would have enjoyed it better if the timeline hadn't jumped around so. Also, one chapter, I only read half, then skipped the rest, as I honestly did not need to know what famous people the author would have gladly had sex with. It didn't seem to even be a part of the rest of her story. The last half of the book was better, but the writin I received an advance copy of this book through a giveaway on Goodreads. The book seemed slow to start, and disjointed, as the timeline was not linear. I think I would have enjoyed it better if the timeline hadn't jumped around so. Also, one chapter, I only read half, then skipped the rest, as I honestly did not need to know what famous people the author would have gladly had sex with. It didn't seem to even be a part of the rest of her story. The last half of the book was better, but the writing style still left me a bit lacking.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Dawn Davies digs deep. Missteps of youth, motherhood, regrets, sorrows, consequences, difficult situations with no easy answers, dogs, more dogs, and enough humor to balance the heavy ballast of this linked collection of personal essays. This is vulnerable writing. This is terrific writing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Brown

    Every single essay in this collection is brilliant. Witty and wise and emotional and intelligent.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Merry Miller moon

    Thank you to Goodreads for the free ARC. I had never heard of this author before. But, you can bet I will look for more books from her in the future. ***POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD*** This is a memoir of sorts. As she has chosen certain elements of her life to elaborate on. I cracked up reading the chapter entitled 'Men I Would Have Slept With'-and she mentions Sitting Bull. Who hasn't made up such a list at one time or another in their life? :) Think I need to sit down and make up a more current on Thank you to Goodreads for the free ARC. I had never heard of this author before. But, you can bet I will look for more books from her in the future. ***POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD*** This is a memoir of sorts. As she has chosen certain elements of her life to elaborate on. I cracked up reading the chapter entitled 'Men I Would Have Slept With'-and she mentions Sitting Bull. Who hasn't made up such a list at one time or another in their life? :) Think I need to sit down and make up a more current one. Loved reading the chapter about the Chinese wedding dress as well. Funny! So glad that her daughter didn't jump the gun on that one. But, be warned, although this book made me laugh out loud multiple times, it is also heart wrenching. When she tells the story about her youngest child, her son....OMG! Dawn Davies, my heart is aching for you, your son and your family. I cannot even imagine. I have a son and he is my world. As I'm sure your son is to you as well. Maybe this book will get more people talking about the stigma of mental illness in our society. This was a funny, gut wrenching, thought provoking book. Read it!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Megan C.

    I've been reading this one each night before bed and I'm LOVING it. It's a collection of essays encompassing the author's life, from childhood to the present day, and it can easily be read straight through or in smaller, separate portions. It's funny and serious and heartwrenching and lovely and REAL. • The essays on parenthood are incredibly powerful, and they all resonated deeply with me, but far and away the most striking was the piece where the author lays bare the struggle to raise her son, w I've been reading this one each night before bed and I'm LOVING it. It's a collection of essays encompassing the author's life, from childhood to the present day, and it can easily be read straight through or in smaller, separate portions. It's funny and serious and heartwrenching and lovely and REAL. • The essays on parenthood are incredibly powerful, and they all resonated deeply with me, but far and away the most striking was the piece where the author lays bare the struggle to raise her son, who battles mental illness and medical difficulties. That one rocked me to my core. Dawn Davies is freaking FIERCE. • This one is going to stick with me for a long time - I went through half a tin of Book Darts (love those things) marking all the parts I wanted to remember! I'm including one of my favorite passages for you below - it kicked me right in the feelings. 😢 • “…and as you click two simple photos, paper fossils that will one day remind you how they once walked the Earth, you realize you have taken everything for granted. Your time with them. Their brief speck of time as children, the soft faces that turn to you as if you are the sun, the fact that time seems to move so slowly when in fact, it is whipping past you at one thousand miles per hour and why you haven’t flown off into space is beyond your comprehension. They will never stay yours, for they weren’t yours to begin with. One day they will leave you, shoot off into the sky and take their place in a bigger constellation.  And it’s your job to let it go." ~From 'Night Swim', Mothers of Sparta

  23. 5 out of 5

    Oreoandlucy

    This book left me conflicted about whether or not I liked it. There were a few stories, such as the one where the author walks with her date along a road and witnesses a deadly car crash, that really made me think. That story was actually so moving that it made me cry. There was another story where the author buys a wedding dress from a woman in China who rips off designer gowns. That story made me laugh out loud. Then, the rest of the book was kind of boring. There was a several page blow-by-bl This book left me conflicted about whether or not I liked it. There were a few stories, such as the one where the author walks with her date along a road and witnesses a deadly car crash, that really made me think. That story was actually so moving that it made me cry. There was another story where the author buys a wedding dress from a woman in China who rips off designer gowns. That story made me laugh out loud. Then, the rest of the book was kind of boring. There was a several page blow-by-blow of the author's divorce which I had to push myself through. There was one story, where the author deals with a troubled son, that was beyond disturbing. It seemed like a lot of people liked this book but it just didn't sit well with me. I think this book was for a certain kind of reader- those who usually read certain "mommy blogs" that brag about their parenting fails but then purport to love their children "fiercely". I don't know if that was what Davies was going for but that is definitely what it felt like. It was just something that I could not get behind and so I just couldn't find myself liking most of this book. I received an advanced copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Wagner

    This is a memoir, presented in chapters that present as short stories but read like excerpts from a woman's diary over the decades of her life from childhood up to middle age. This book took me to some deep places emotionally, as a girl, as a mother, as an animal lover, as a student of history and sociology, as someone who has had my heart broken and laughed at the same time. It surprised me with its intensity. I am tempted to reread it, but it won't have the same effect twice. In life, going th This is a memoir, presented in chapters that present as short stories but read like excerpts from a woman's diary over the decades of her life from childhood up to middle age. This book took me to some deep places emotionally, as a girl, as a mother, as an animal lover, as a student of history and sociology, as someone who has had my heart broken and laughed at the same time. It surprised me with its intensity. I am tempted to reread it, but it won't have the same effect twice. In life, going through a thing and looking back on it later feel the same, but we can never truly relive an important experience. HIGHLY recommended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    wade

    A big percentage of this book is a handbook of bad choices in parenting, relationships and pet ownership. Basically, I was thinking why would one want to read about such an unremarkable life - a whole chapter about men past and present that the author would have sex with. (Why the heck should I care? I don't.) The two redeeming qualities are that Davies is a good writer in the car wreck of her life and the chapter on her struggles with a son with a plethora of physical and psychological problem A big percentage of this book is a handbook of bad choices in parenting, relationships and pet ownership. Basically, I was thinking why would one want to read about such an unremarkable life - a whole chapter about men past and present that the author would have sex with. (Why the heck should I care? I don't.) The two redeeming qualities are that Davies is a good writer in the car wreck of her life and the chapter on her struggles with a son with a plethora of physical and psychological problems.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    Dawn Davies describes her Mothers of Sparta as a “memoir in pieces,” an excellent way of describing this collection of essays that taken together share many important elements in her life. I think many women will recognize themselves in the fierceness of Davies’ maternal love, the joy, the pride, the sacrifice, and the pain. In some of these essays, she scrapes herself raw to tell the honest story of her life. Davies captured my heart with the first paragraph of the first essay, “NIght Swim” desc Dawn Davies describes her Mothers of Sparta as a “memoir in pieces,” an excellent way of describing this collection of essays that taken together share many important elements in her life. I think many women will recognize themselves in the fierceness of Davies’ maternal love, the joy, the pride, the sacrifice, and the pain. In some of these essays, she scrapes herself raw to tell the honest story of her life. Davies captured my heart with the first paragraph of the first essay, “NIght Swim” describing the oppressive heat where “a deep breath leaves you unsatisfied, suspicious there is nothing life-giving at all in what you’ve inhaled, and you are left air-hungry…” Wow, if you have even spent a miserable hot, humid summer day trying to breathe hot air thick with moisture, you know exactly what that feels like. She brings that kind of detailed and honest observation to everything, to much more significant things than the humidity. She writes about what it was like to move and move and move again as a child, about pregnancy, post-partum depression, raising children, divorce, being a soccer mom, and raising a child who is profoundly disabled and disturbed. The title essay, “Mothers of Sparta” left me emotionally wrecked. Her son is diagnosed with autism and there was a constant struggle to get the schools to meet his needs, particularly since ignorant educators would assume that since he didn’t “look” disabled, he must be recalcitrant, stubborn, or disrespectful. Shockingly, autism was the easy part. In his teens, he gets a far more devastating diagnosis, one that will break your heart for him and his family. It was painful to read. It was certainly far more painful for Davies to write and even more painful to live. I enjoyed Mothers of Sparta a lot. Many of the essays are stories of an ordinary life made extraordinary by Davies’ prose and insight. She writes an essay about baking a pie–humorous in many ways, but also one that gives insight into the exhaustion and fog of post-partum depression. Another story about ordering a custom-made dress over the internet is also a story about letting your children make their own mistakes, and what men sometimes demand of women. There is one essay, “Men I Would Have Slept With” is funny enough, but too silly, an odd duck when measured against the rest of her essays. I highly recommend this book. Mothers of Sparta will be released on January 30th. I received an Advance Reading Copy from the publisher through a Shelf Awareness drawing. “A Piece of Pie” – a free excerpt from Mothers of Sparta at Flatiron Books | Macmillan Mothers of Sparta at Flatiron Books | Macmillan Dawn Davies author site https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    The book starts off with a beautiful, poignant essay about the author watching her daughters jump into their pool, and being caught by the glimpses of their adult faces that she could see forming. It is a lyrical expression of the essence of parenthood: that we raise our children to let them go. Hearing this first essay, I knew right away that this book was special. Some of the essays are profound and beautiful. Another essay I loved juxtaposed her younger daughter's fierce attitude and surprisin The book starts off with a beautiful, poignant essay about the author watching her daughters jump into their pool, and being caught by the glimpses of their adult faces that she could see forming. It is a lyrical expression of the essence of parenthood: that we raise our children to let them go. Hearing this first essay, I knew right away that this book was special. Some of the essays are profound and beautiful. Another essay I loved juxtaposed her younger daughter's fierce attitude and surprising early engagement with the imagined life of the young dressmaker, weddinggown96, Davies commissioned to create the knockoff of a gown her daughter loved. Another striking essay details a first date with an ordinary beginning and tragic middle. It brought me to tears as I walked and listened. Yet another humorously remembers a disastrous attempt at baking a pumpkin pie as a new mom. The title essay deals with what it means to parent a special needs child. Her son has autism, brain damage, and is a diagnosed sociopath. That one is a hard story to listen to as a parent, to know that our children's lives are left, in so many ways, to chance. Like the essay about her daughter, she interweaves an imagined life, this time of a Spartan mother, with her story of raising such a complicated child. There are also some lesser essays, but all together, Davies has a unique voice, a deft way with storytelling, and a compelling honesty. There is humor even in her darker stories. And, if you listen to the audiobook, a lovely slight Southern accent.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Each chapter is an essay about the author's life. I enjoyed them. She's got a good sense of humor and a gift for description and metaphor. (view spoiler)[Then I got to the chapter about how her terrier dog kept eating all these small pets--hamsters, birds, etc.--that she and her family would bring into the house, and I became really exasperated and kind of enraged. I mean, OK. The first time or two, you can chalk it up to a certain naivete about your dog being an absolute killing machine and you Each chapter is an essay about the author's life. I enjoyed them. She's got a good sense of humor and a gift for description and metaphor. (view spoiler)[Then I got to the chapter about how her terrier dog kept eating all these small pets--hamsters, birds, etc.--that she and her family would bring into the house, and I became really exasperated and kind of enraged. I mean, OK. The first time or two, you can chalk it up to a certain naivete about your dog being an absolute killing machine and your inability to control it. But after that, it's just complete nincompoopery. What dingbat would continue to bring hamsters and birds into an environment where they would inevitably be eaten alive? I'm talking, eight or nine times, at least. Over and over again. And her kids would have to deal with the trauma each time. Then, I got to the chapter about her psychopathic son, and I was so sad for her. She writes so honestly about the situation she found herself in: being the mother of a son who just doesn't have a conscience and enjoys sinister and disgusting pastimes. These are interests that, if he acted upon them, would make him a predator and, if everyone's lucky, get him life in prison. He is a neurological misfit, and it's no one's fault. But society would be safer if he'd died at birth. She knows this, and yet she loves her son. It's a terrible position to be in, and one that most people can't identify with and don't think about. It takes courage to write about something so verboten. (hide spoiler)] I found this book at The Dollar Tree.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christie

    So this is more of a 3.5 star book for me, but I'm going to round up. I really enjoyed diving into the author's life, at different stages, through some really lovely writing. Although I'm not a mother and didn't connect directly to the author's experiences in motherhood, I appreciated her vulnerable, fans accounting of things that happened. I also appreciate hearing about someone else's battle with kidney stones, and learning about fostering animals, however hapless. I also did enjoy how she wro So this is more of a 3.5 star book for me, but I'm going to round up. I really enjoyed diving into the author's life, at different stages, through some really lovely writing. Although I'm not a mother and didn't connect directly to the author's experiences in motherhood, I appreciated her vulnerable, fans accounting of things that happened. I also appreciate hearing about someone else's battle with kidney stones, and learning about fostering animals, however hapless. I also did enjoy how she wrote "The Dress", which was a lovely, heartbreaking story, from the two perspectives. And then the short story that bears the same title as the book. Man, that one made me think (and of course was also beautiful and heartbreaking). There were some stories that I didn't enjoy as much, that seemed to break up my feeling of really living in this author's writing. One chapter talks about divorce and remarriage in kind of a choppy way, while another is just a list of men the author thinks she should have slept with. I think I could have done without that (even if it's subconsciously a list many of us keep). And the chapter about a murderous dog (following his instincts, I guess) and a constant stream of living chew toys was a little hard to stomach (although it ended bittersweetly, almost making up for the pages describing the violence inflicted upon poor innocent hamsters and birds).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Helois

    A memoir, that reads more like a collection of personal essays or diary entries from different points in the author's life, giving more of a kaleidoscope view of life rather than an actual time line. Which, can possibly be confusing for some. I personally love it, but could see that some people would not. Each chapter details different points in Dawn Davies life, from her childhood to her current life. Some detailing a rough childhood of moving a lot dealing with making and losing friends over a A memoir, that reads more like a collection of personal essays or diary entries from different points in the author's life, giving more of a kaleidoscope view of life rather than an actual time line. Which, can possibly be confusing for some. I personally love it, but could see that some people would not. Each chapter details different points in Dawn Davies life, from her childhood to her current life. Some detailing a rough childhood of moving a lot dealing with making and losing friends over and over, her parents divorce, college life, accidents to her own divorce, children, remarriage and blending families. Her troubled son and the short lives of the family's various pets. Overall, I thought it was an interesting look at a life, and the lives of those around her. I had some trouble with the fact that kept getting pets, when clearly they should have stopped. Also, the fact that the author kept using the Latin/medical terms for body parts, when it was clearly not necessary came off as pretentious, though I do feel the author was perhaps going for funny. It was at time humorous, and others heart wrenching and still others was just a look at what goes through people's heads sometimes. The writing style itself was great and that first sentence was fabulous. *I received a copy from the publisher for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.