Publisher: Howard Books (Simon & Schuster)
Publish Date: October 4, 2011
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Synopsis: In the tradition of The Glass Castle and The Liar’s Club comes the captivating memoir of a young girl forced by her mother’s instability to care for her siblings.
Terry Helwig and her five sisters were raised by their charismatic, troubled, and very young mother, Carola, who struggled with loneliness and infidelity. Because of their stepfather’s roving job in the oil fields, the family moved frequently from town to town in the American West. The girls were often separated and left behind with relatives, never knowing what their unstable mother would do next. Yet, even in the face of adversity, Terry found beauty in the small moments: resting in the boughs of her favorite oak tree, savoring the freedom she found on her grandparents’ farm, and gleefully discovering the joys of dating and dancing.
Despite the hardships and the limitations of age, Terry rose above her circumstances to become an excellent and faithful caregiver to her five siblings. She finds power in bonding with her sisters, and they manage to thrive in the face of constant upheaval and uncertainty. A moving and motivating portrait of love and perseverance, Moonlight on Linoleum is a poignant tribute to the bonds of family and the tenacity of love.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I read the synopsis, I was drawn to the story. A lot of women I know do not have easy relationships with their mothers. Naturally, I wanted to know how Helwig’s own relationship with her mother differed from min. I read the forward from Kidd and was even more intrigued. And then, I read the the prologue and my heart broke. She had me during those few pages.
In Moonlight Linoleum, Helwig writes an emotional memoir that details her childhood. Helwig did not just recount the events that took place in her life. Instead, she beautifully wrote the story of her childhood, filled with description and detail that I couldn’t believe it was real. Her story-telling abilities are so amazing that you are captivated by each memory that fills each page.
With these memories, Helwig presents a life that is filled with sad and unfortunate events. Her life has become a story of strength, overcoming every obstacle that has been thrown her way. She has had to mature earlier than she has ever needed to be.
Helwig’s mother is Carola Jean Vacha, a young teen who wanted to escape her own family and life. She married young, lying about her age to assure escape, and quickly had Helwig. After a short while, Carola left her husband, taking her baby to find a better and brighter life. Unfortunately, that is not the story for Carola, or for Helwig. The story continues moving from one city to another, adding children and husbands, one by one, with the dream of something more.
The intimacy of detail that Helwig includes has only intensified the impact that Moonlight on Linoleum has had on me. Abuse, depression, and infidelity is only a few of what Helwig has had to endure throughout her childhood, and all while being the responsible one for her six sisters.
But this book wasn’t just filled with sorrow and sadness. Helwig has a lot of love that she shares. While her mother was not the ideal parent, Helwig wholeheartedly loved her mother. If that isn’t a perfect example of unconditional love, then I don’t know what is. Helwig loved her mother, for what I think is the idea of who she could be.
Helwig also loved her sisters like no one else. She realized the unrealistic situations and sometimes became the parent that they only had. Helwig also loved a man she called Daddy. Daddy Davy was Carola’s second husband, and was the only man that played a constant in her life. My heart broke for him. He loved and wore his heart on his sleeve. While he was content on being naive and in denial, I don’t think he deserved what was done to him.
Moonlight on Linoleum is painfully reflective yet ultimately hopeful. Helwig is a fantastic story-teller and wrote this sad tale impeccably. This was a story told through the eyes of a young, little girl who believed in family and togetherness. She conquered physical and emotional pain and clearly thrives. It is clear that the hope of Helwig will lead to a happy ending, not just for Helwig, but for the reader as well.