Score 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
When I Was Her Daughter is a powerful, emotion-filled memoir about the traumatic life of author Leslie Ferguson growing up with an abusive mother and in the foster care system.
This book's subject matter is near and dear to us in a lot of ways, the least bit that we've worked to help our local foster care institutions. We've also read quite a few books that view this topic from different angles. For example, When to Run, Born Scared took the perspective of a girl growing up in an abusive household. Fostering took the perspective of a foster mother encountering and caring for a variety of different foster children.
This book takes the perspective of the child in this situation—vulnerable, scared, and anxious about whatever future (if any) awaits them.
Books like this really make you appreciate what you have because some people had very little to start with. Leslie lived in a home with an abusive, neglectful mother who seems to have some form of psychosis or paranoid schizophrenia. Specifically, her mother is obsessed with the idea that the Russians/Soviets/Communists are spying on her and trying to control her. This paranoia rules her life and just about everything she says and does. It's actually quite fascinating and also terrifying to behold.
Her mother isn't beyond trying to choke and strangle her children, and many of them fear that she will someday kill herself as well as them. It is bizarre, tragic, sad, and—again—terrifying.
What's interesting about this book is that, despite the fact that Leslie's mother is clearly the villain of her life, Leslie very often chooses to forgive her and make excuses for her. This is very similar to what we saw in Pounding Bass, although this time it's in the context of a mother-daughter relationship rather than a romantic one. Relationships like these are toxic. Abuse isn't always physical, it can be mental, psychological, and verbal. Leslie's mother, like Garrett in Pounding Bass, is a manipulator and sociopathic liar who knows how to wiggle her way back into her target's life and good graces. There are times when even we felt sorry for Leslie's mother because there are times when she almost seems redeemable or that her words/actions are caused by mental illness rather than a malicious will.
What can be frustrating about these types of things is that they seem inescapable. The victim can't imagine a life without the abuser and, so, always find themselves coming back to them.
Also interesting is that there are a number of other players who are aware of her mother's issues and either refuse to act or don't act enough. On the other hand, there are people who do step in and try to help Leslie and her brother, William, to have a better life. Their grandparents, for example, do advocate for them and stand up for them from time to time. Mrs. Ferguson, a teacher, also cares for Leslie and gives us some of the most powerful moments in the book.
How can Leslie build a healthy, happy life from one that began in a violent and dirty household full of bugs of every kind and a vile mother?
This real-life story is full of drama, suspense, and intrigue.
Check it out on Amazon!