Book Review – WHO KILLED MOM?

Who Killed Mom?: A Delinquent Son’s Meditations on Family, Mortality and Very Tacky Candles, by Steve Burgess

The best book you’ll read all year

Steve Burgess, where have you been all my life? I feel like you are my long-lost brother from a parallel universe and instead of a dysfunctional family like mine (think The Corrections, without the coffee cans of urine), you had pretty decent parents with relatively high-functioning siblings. I “get” everything in Who Killed Mom? I’ve seen how hard a Mom can work for her family and how loved she was. I recognized so much of myself and my five brothers and sisters in it. In fact, I’m a little mad at you because I feel like when I write my life story, people might think it a rip off of yours! I totally “get” your humour and laughed my head off so many times, except for the parts that made me weep. But even then, I would start laughing again soon after so I was never down for long.

Not your average family memoir

Who Killed Mom? is not a murder mystery as the title might suggest nor is it one of those family memoirs where three-year olds almost burn the house down because they had to cook their own hot dogs (The Glass Castle). It’s not about enduring an impoverished childhood with a psychologically abusive father who was emotionally unavailable and unrepentant to this death and the mom who moved heaven and earth to keep everything from falling apart. (You’ll have to wait for my memoir to read that story). No, this is a beautifully written, very moving and often hilarious story about the life and death of a little red-headed prairie girl who grew up to become a remarkable woman who married a great guy and raised a big family. It’s a treatise on life, death, family and true love and every word spoke to me.

A Bookclub favourite

I read this with my bookclub (write to Steve at his website and tell him you want a “bookclub in a box” and have him make a personal appearance) and we all loved it to bits. And not just because there he was, all 6’4” of him, sitting in the living room with us, eating Barbara’s yummy food, making us laugh so hard we’d cry. We loved it because nothing beats a great story well told. And if you don’t love it too, there must be something very, very wrong with you.

Thanks for the memories

People who survived dysfunctional families often have a hard time remembering the good parts.  Bad memories have a way of overshadowing the good bits.  One of my favourite things about Who Killed Mom? is that it reminded me of the many happy times in my childhood and what a wonderful, smart and complicated person my own mother was and how much I miss her.  For instance, Steve writes of the magical year when he had his mom to himself all day while the older kids were at school.  I was reminded that I too had such a year and it was heaven on earth. Sometimes we’d go downtown to Woodward’s where we’d sit at the counter in the restaurant, she with her cup of coffee and cigarette and me stirring a spoonful of sugar into an Orange Crush. I’d swing my legs and swivel on the stool and we’d just talk and talk. Thank you, Steve, for letting me remember that anew.

Oh, more than just a memoir

Who Killed Mom? is a family memoir, but it’s also a very revealing portrait of Steve Burgess himself. As the subtitle tells you, there is indeed some high-octane delinquency and he’s as honest in his portrayal of himself as he is with his Mom and Dad. It’s obvious that he loves his parents very much but the story never gets sentimental. By the end of the book, you’ll feel like you’ve known these people your whole life. As my sister Nancy likes to say:

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll become a part of you.

Just buy it for chrissakes!

Anyone who has ever been born needs to read Who Killed Mom?. There is just no excuse otherwise. Go to Amazon or Chapters/Indigo now and order copies for everyone you know. It’s also available as an ebook on Kindle and Kobo.