I remember sitting in my car, taking one last drag on a cigarette already smoked to the filter, fiddling with the radio, checking my phone for a message, anything I could do to stall entering house. I never knew what new nightmare waited behind the red door. What foolishness would be the catalyst to ignite the tense feelings between my daughter and me? That’s the premise to Patricia Perry Donovan’s new novel Deliver Her.
Reading about the Carmody family was a struggle for me. Each page of Deliver Her was as if Donovan had plopped herself into the middle of my home circa 2011 and taken copious notes about my life. There’s me in Meg Carmody, trying to ‘make it better’ by forcing ideas and solutions to an unreceptive daughter; anything to penetrate her child’s stubbornness. The Mister and I are parents Jacob and Meg, attempting to communicate, but instead resorting to screaming at each other while the kids cowered in their rooms. My sister plays Aunt Jessica, not always agreeing with my methods, but supportive nonetheless. The star, Alex, is my daughter. Both Alex and my daughter are grappling with the gray area of not a child, not an adult, while hormones, lost loved ones, anger, confusion and fear mark their every move.
The story begins with Meg at her wit’s end at Alex’s behavior. Thinking a fresh start would help, Meg enlists the services of Begin Again to transport Alex to a school for troubled teens in New Hampshire. Not quite boarding school behavior, The Mister and I discussed sending our daughter to the in-laws in Virginia. My mother’s offer of my old bedroom ended that thought. For a month, my daughter and I were separated, able to exhale the tensions of the past year. Like Meg, I had second thoughts once she left. I felt like I was weak as a parent, unable to take care of business in my home. I also thought I was rejecting her when she needed me the most. My father in law had died, and she took his death very hard. But like Meg, she couldn’t or wouldn’t reach out to her mother in her time of need. In the end, a talk with my pastor assured me that it was healthy for both of us to be separate. It was a time we both needed. A time to see things without the tenseness that seemed to blanket the house. We both seemed to breathe freer.
Unfortunately, the breathing room was short-lived. When she returned home, my daughter and I still battled. She refused to do her homework, she refused to clean her room. When she was told to wash the dishes, she tossed them into the trash. We were both so angry with each other! We snapped, fought, cried. She took to Facebook to emo out, I worked longer hours. Like the Carmody family, we didn’t let outsiders in. We tried to maintain an air of perfection although the façade was cracked if anyone delved deeper. Not that we allowed anyone in.
When I couldn’t communicate with my daughter, I remember writing in my journal to her. I wanted her to know that despite her stinky behavior, I still loved her. Meg also writes to Alex daily, attempting to keep up connection. Like me, Meg expresses her love and fear for her daughter.
Fast forward five years. Now that my daughter has shouldered more responsibility as an independent adult, our relationship has improved drastically. We talk TO each other, not AT each other. For other parents with teens, I try to be as transparent as possible. Having a teen is like a flickering light bulb: sometimes the bulb is bright, sometimes the bulb is dim, but in the end, the bulb will do the best job based on the turns in the socket.
I never want another parent to a teen to feel alone and isolated. Raising a teen is hard as Hell. There is no sugar-coating. I never want a parent to feel that they are treading water with one hand impaired. Teens are a different breed. Period. But it DOES get better. I pinky promise.
Deliver Her has found a way to craft this relationship into a believable story of a family struggling to put the pieces together.
Deliver Her will be available for purchase on May 1, 2016
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