About Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother
By Hollie Adams
Paperback: 172 pages
.Publisher: NeWest Press (May 2015)
Everyone deals with grief in their own personal way. Take Carrie, for example. Getting over her mother’s death from ovarian cancer takes the form of ramping up passive-aggressive office warfare, continuing her campaign to show her ex-husband she’s over him (further increasing the distance between herself and her teenage daughter, natch), ridding herself of her mother’s overweight cat Poncho, and consuming heroic quantities of red wine, spiked coffee and coffin nails. Nobody’s perfect.
Situated at the midpoint between booze-soaked mayhem and middle-aged ennui, Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother is a riotous assemblage of found objects, Choose Your Own Adventure-style in jokes and useful facts about mice. In her startlingly funny first novel, Hollie Adams takes the conventional wisdom about likeable literary heroines and shoves it down an elevator shaft.
“’Imagine if you could still do that,’ Tina says, ‘Leave your baby at a hospital or the monastery or wherever. I might have done that with Mitchell. Seriously, if I would have known he’d bite me every time I told him no – I mean really try to take off a chunk of flesh between his teeth – I would’ve let some nice nuns give him the strap once in a while.’”
“He may want to scoop out your eyeballs with scalding soup ladles, but surely he has enough decency to extend bereavement sympathies.”
“Wouldn’t human existence be exponentially easier if for every scenario, a set of words would flash before your eyes offering you just two choices? A fifty-fifty chance to do the right thing, every time.”
“The priest’s eulogy contains many generic adjectives – ‘giving,’ ‘sympathetic,’ ‘selfless,’ ‘humble,’ – which probably applies to most dead people, but betray the fact that he didn’t really know your mother.”
“Your mother watched Jeopardy! not because she was remotely adept at trivia but because shouting insults at Alex Trebek in the form of questions rejuvenated her spirits in a way that a brisk walk or a cup of tea might for someone more sane than she.”
Hollie Adams has a dark and wicked sense of humor. Luckily, I do too – so I giggled, chortled, snorted, and laughed aloud as I read her first published missive. The protagonist (Carrie) is a snarky and wily woman whose mother has just died of cancer. You need to keep in mind that Carrie’s social and emotional development seems to have arrested during her adolescence, most likely during her surly teen years. She is a procrastinator with oppositional and passive-aggressive tendencies, so naturally, she has the expected resultant problems with authority. Carrie has to push boundaries – just because they are there, and is creatively snide and snarky in a deliciously descriptive manner – as that is just who she is. As she uniquely navigates the grieving process, we meet the various layers of her prickly personality, personal and family history, and current thought process. Her now teen-aged daughter is far more mature and responsible than Carrie is, or will ever be. She is truly an awful and selfish person – but honestly, we all are in our own heads. The imaginative narrative provided me with hilarious visuals that had me smirking and laughing aloud. Carrie is thoughtless, selfish, lazy, and cranky human being. I found her endlessly entertaining, but imagine she might be an acquired taste for others – that might need to be taken in small doses.
About Hollie Adams
Hollie Adams is a Windsorite living in Alberta, where she teaches writing and literature. She has studied creative writing at the University of Windsor and has a PhD in English from the University of Calgary. Her writing has been published in several Canadian periodicals including Prairie Fire, The Antigonish Review,Carousel, The Windsor Review, and Filling Station, and online at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother is her first novel.