Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...
HOMAGE TO A QUEEN
GROWING UP ON LUSH FARMLAND IN THE Wisconsin town she calls Menomenee, National Public Radio correspondent Jacki Lyden, 43, remembers being charmed by the irrepressibly creative spirit of her mother, Dolores. What Lyden did not know, until she was 12, was that her mother was manic depressive. One autumn day, Jacki was simply told that her mother had had a nervous breakdown and was in the hospital. Lyden's reaction was one of shock. "I had no idea what that even meant," she recalls. "I imagined all sorts of things."
In the heartbreaking Daughter of the Queen of Sheba (Houghton Mifflin)—a title taken from one of her mother's imaginary identities—Lyden recounts the family's struggle to come to terms with Dolores's disintegration, which required periodic hospitalizations over two decades. In spite of the burdens imposed, Lyden also recognizes the uplifting aspects of having Dolores (twice divorced and stable now for 10 years thanks to lithium) as a mother. "Never did she say, 'You can't achieve whatever you want,' " says Lyden—and Jacki and her sisters took their cue. Sarah, 39, is a lawyer in Denver, and Kate, 42, is an artist back in "Menomenee," while Jacki has traveled the world as a journalist, recently covering the presidential elections in Iran. "I don't know anybody else in my community who has had a life even close to mine," she says. "I attribute a good chunk of that to my mother's fantasy life."