The narrator’s mother looms large in her psyche. Labeled “eccentric” or “Italian,” her mother in fact suffered from what was later found to be manic depression. Without understanding the disease, the family treated the unpredictable ups and downs of her condition as they struck. During periods of paralyzing depression she was hospitalized, and the family felt abandoned. During periods of manic productivity and overdrive, she was a dedicated pharmacist, an exemplary homemaker, and an unusually knowledgeable gardener.
This sparse novel draws the portrait of a grand and unforgettable lady, loving and unable to love at once. Her bequest is as much a material one as it is an emotional one, and, the author surmises as she glances at her own daughters, a genetic one.