3 out of 4 stars
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A Portrait of Mommy by J.L. Coston is an autobiographical depiction of a woman’s journey through life, sharing numerous tribulations she endured, and how her faith provided the strength to survive the unthinkable. Troubles began for Ellawese (better known as “Peas”) during childhood; she was born to an African American couple who severely suffered the effects of the Great Depression. This period of poverty caused both of her parents to work odd jobs under white superiors and relocate frequently. Despite the long hours and demanding labor, the family barely had enough to survive. House-sharing was common—a lifestyle which inevitably lead to her mother’s extramarital affair and abandonment of the family, which resulted in a newfound broken home. Even as she grew and developed into a level-headed and industrious young woman, Ellawese’s life always seemed to lead to another disaster. A marriage that should have brought a sense of stability instead came with a new set of problems; her husband abused her and battled severe substance addition. However, Ellawese never crumbled under life’s burdens, but instead found a personal coping mechanism that would eventually become her legacy, touching the lives of people in need worldwide.
Although Peas faced many heartaches throughout the years, often inflicted by those closest to her, she never held a grudge. I really liked that she was able to forgive other’s wrongdoings instantly, and typically without explanations. I also enjoyed the virtue of compassion which was frequently expressed, giving me hope that humility is still present in a world so often overshadowed by evil. Also, Coston created a table-of-contents that made this book easy to reference. Each chapter contained a short phrase in addition to the number hinting at the main idea(s).
Consequently, I could not help but feel perplexed regarding who wrote the book, and who told the story. Both are written in first person point of view, and both address a mother figure. However, the two speakers are not the same person. Unfortunately, this lack of clarity became a dominant issue while I was reading, causing me to pay less attention to the book’s main ideas, and more time attempting to identify the correct narrator.
Individuals who would appreciate this author’s memoir are those who find the events of other’s lives fascinating, even if the information presented is unpleasant to read at times. Additionally, people who feel (or have felt) overwhelmed by life’s adversities, seeking a glimpse of hope, may find inspiration through the author’s testimony. Alternatively, atheists, or those with a negative view of Christian values would most likely find this book unappealing; much of the content is devoted to spirituality, along with Ellawese’s belief that the good in life is always derived by God.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Coston’s editing was impeccable—a necessary component to every literary work. Furthermore, I appreciated this author’s ability to address an abundance of information in a relatively short read, leaving no room for mundane content. However, I believe that some aspects needed additional clarity, primarily in relation to characters ensuring that both the writer and the reader were always on the same “page.”
A Portrait of Mommy
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