The Mother and Child Rebellion

Six readers gathered at the Plaza Library on Sunday, March 22 to discuss the second novel from local author, Laura Moriarty, The Rest of Her Life. Comments and perceptions focused on the realistic and sympathetic, but not always likeable, characters.

Susan opened conversation by stating, “It’s not a pleasant book, but it’s a good book.” Readers laughed and agreed and started to talk about those segments of the book they found puzzling or frustrating. Much of the conversation centered around Leigh, from whose point of the view the majority of the story is told, and Kara, her daughter who accidentally kills a classmate during a car accident.

Cindi remarked that she felt "privy to a very personal moment. The author drops you in the middle of this family tragedy and almost fifty pages go by until you learn the family's last name."

Readers talked about Leigh’s compulsive need to feel responsible for everyone around her and her distaste for the negative feelings expressed by others. “It’s like it’s not okay for anyone to feel bad. Everyone has to be happy around Leigh all the time,” one of the readers pointed out.

Another reader pointed out that Leigh seems to function better in her life when she is in “crisis mode or emergencies.” Briana felt that Leigh frequently set herself up for disappointment. “Leigh is constantly setting expectations that are never being met—by her family, friends, coworkers, even herself. She is constantly dissatisfied.”

Participants also discussed the many ways mothers and daughters and husbands and wives and friends can do damage to each other. Briana talked about the breaking point between Leigh and Kara in the scene detailing Leigh not ironing Kara’s favorite shirt for a second grade photograph. Beatriz pointed out that “humans can cause each other such pain and no one even knows.” Everyone thought it was very brave of Kara to face her mother and ask why her mother didn’t like her own daughter.

Conversation revolved around the chatty, gossipy Eva, whom most readers disliked, but acknowledged was an important part of the story. “Eva holds a mirror up to Leigh that no one else will. This is a necessary role in society for a gossip,” said Sarah. Jennifer added that while Eva was the clearinghouse for news involving Leigh’s personal and professional life, she also was the sort of person who would keep a secret if asked.

The readers concluded that there are no characters who are easily likeable or dislikable and they enjoyed this aspect of the novel. “There are no villains here,” said Briana.