When the writers at MotherTalk sent out an email asking for people to read The Sky Isn’t Visible From Here by Felicia Sullivan and blog about it, I jumped at the chance. And who wouldn’t want a free book anyway? That’s one of the perks of reviewing books J From the description of the book, it sounded just like something that I might relate to since I don’t really have a good relationship with my mother. So, I signed up and anxiously awaited my copy.
For those of you who have never heard of it:
From the Publisher: "Felicia Sullivan's mother disappeared on the night
Sullivan graduated from college and has not been seen or heard from in the
ten years since. Sullivan, who grew up on the tough streets of Brooklyn in
the 1980s, now looks back on her childhood -- lived among drug dealers,
users, substitute fathers, and a host of unsavory characters. Ever the
responsible child, Sullivan became her mother's keeper, taking her to the
hospital when she overdoses, withstanding her narcissistic rages, succombing
to the abuse or indifference of so-called stepfathers, and always wondering
why her mother would never reveal the truth about the father she'd never
met. But then, Sullivan's volatile, beautiful, deceitful, drug-addicted
mother altered the truth in many cruel ways.
"Ashamed of her past, Sullivan invented a persona to show the world. But
keeping up a facade has its price, and before she knew it, she, too, was
snorting coke in nightclubs, throwing back shots of tequila like candy, and
eventually taking a leave of absence from her Ivy League graduate program. In
fact, she had become her mother."A book about secrets and forgiveness, The Sky
Isn't Visible from Here is also the story of a young woman unraveling -- and
then putting her life back together again."
The book is written in such a way that I could almost imagine sitting down with Felicia and her telling me all of the stories about her mother and growing up over a cup of coffee. Her voice in the book is so mesmerizing that it is hard not to forget that you are actually reading. Coming from an alcoholic/drug addict home myself, there were so many times in the book that I could relate to exactly what “Felicia/Lisa” was feeling. All the fear, insecurity, and dread came rushing back to me all over again. When I was growing up, it wasn’t my mother who was the alcoholic and drug user but my father. No, that would come later and I am still dealing with it today. As a child, my father would come home drunk and high all the time. In fact, most of my childhood memories consisted of him terrifying me with his behavior and me being scared to come downstairs because I never knew what I was in store for. Just like Felicia, I was never beaten but I didn’t need to be for I was knocked down almost daily with words. Needless to say, we don’t really have much of a relationship now.
At that time, and up until I met my husband and finally grew up enough to get out from under my mother, my Mom was my best friend and my protector. Much like Gus was to Felicia. When my parents divorced in 1988 after 13 years of marriage, we moved from Ohio to North Carolina to escape that life and start over. And the downward spiral began. Once my mother was free she started dating and put her boyfriends before my happiness and well being on more than one occasion. But she tried hard and she was still everything to me. Nothing made me happier than making her happy and proud. By the time I was in high school, she had changed jobs/gotten fired several times. She was an RN so work was abundant. I would always get the same answer as to why the change. “It just didn’t work out” or “I didn’t get along with my co-workers” etc. I later found out that she was stealing prescription medication. It started out with small things from people who were discharged or died, but then it escalated to narcotics. It has gotten so bad that I have to lock my bedroom door when she comes to visit so that she doesn’t steal out of my medicine cabinet! My mother has severe back pain from an injury she received while working in the early 1980’s and like a lot of nurses she self-prescribed medication to herself. As a result of all the lies and stealing, she ended up getting her nursing license revoked not once but twice.
After the second time of loosing her license, she decided that she should get disability because her back kept her from working. In NC, in order to get disability you have to be unable to work for a specified amount of time. So she lived off of my grandparents money for several years. This in itself has caused a lot of tension within the family that we are still dealing with. Once she got the disability (three years later) she paid my grandparents back, bought a POS truck and moved even farther away to some piece of crap trailer with her dogs, cats, and horses. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how to get to her house and I have to look up her phone number if I want to call her. Isn’t that sad?
Over the last ten years or so, my relationship with my mother has deteriorated to the point where I rarely speak to her. I might call her once a month just to make sure she is alive. She is so doped up on medication, that most of the time she is incoherent and doesn’t remember a thing that I say the next day. It breaks my heart to know that my children will probably never really know their grandmother. I just can’t trust her around my kids for fear that something will happen. I know that she is in pain, but that is just an excuse for her to escape reality. I miss my mother dearly, but I can’t deal with the drama and the bullshit anymore. I would rather just not talk to her than be reminded that we no longer have a real relationship. I know that she loves me and is proud of me, but I am mostly ashamed of what she has turned out to be and that makes me incredibly sad. Luckily, I never resorted to drugs and alcohol and always told myself that I would never use drugs to escape my problems. I come from a long line of alcoholics and I vowed to myself that I would never to that to my children. I am determined to break that cycle now.
After reading this book, it made me want to hold my daughter close and show her everyday how special and appreciated she is. I am taking a Positive Parenting class at church and something Pastor John said struck a chord that I think is so eloquently illustrated in this book. Children from abusive homes are survivors. They have to learn to cope with the things around them just to survive. How true it was for Felicia and in many ways for me.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a mother or has grown up in an abusive relationship. Felicia will make you dig deep down into your subconscious and think long and hard about things that you haven’t thought of in a long time. And that is just as good as a day in therapy without spending the $100.