Picks and Pans Review: Mother and Son: a Memoir

updated 11/13/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/13/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Michael Sledge

Meet Michael Sledge's mother: a southern woman who grew up planning to become the perfect wife, mom and hostess. She married a successful Houston businessman and had five children (the author is her third). For a while she was, indeed, a good mother, but then things began to go terribly wrong. The marriage faltered, and the couple divorced; her second husband turned into an obnoxious bully, one of her children died of leukemia, and the family home burned down.

Today, Michael's mother (unnamed in the book) works as a church counselor to help others confront life's tragedies. "Lord knows I've had enough experience," she says.

Then there is Michael. The sensitive child who was desperate for his mother to marry again (his candidate: the family's kindhearted pediatrician) realized in his 20s that he was gay. Michael fought against his sexual urges—he had always dreamed of having a wife and family. But in coming to terms with himself, Michael drew strength from his mother's experiences. Indeed, Michael's struggle is complicated by the knowledge that his mother regards his coming out as yet another sadness in her life. "One day, I hope, she will be able to accept my life without sorrow," he writes, "and to understand that at last she can truly know me."

This touching memoir about ordinary people coping with fate's twists is both inspiring and unforgettable. (Simon & Schuster, $23)

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