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Praise of Motherhood

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  94 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
The death of the author's mother sparks a series of reflections on the secret roles mothers play in the lives of troubled adolescents.
Paperback, 126 pages
Published May 25th 2012 by Zero Books
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Edward Rathke
I thought I left the star rating here blank and I think it should remain blank but I guess I put four stars there for some reason so I guess I'll keep it for now. It makes no sense for me to give a book like this a rating. Not because it's bad or good or immeasurable, but because it's about a friend, because it's true, and how do you quantify a friend's life? How do you even begin to try, and, if you do try, what purpose could that serve?

Praise of Motherhood is dark and beautiful and tragic beca
Slit Your Wrists! Magazine
Jun 11, 2012 Slit Your Wrists! Magazine rated it it was amazing
It is borderline offensive for this book to be labeled as just a memoir, but understand the reasons for it to be marketed as such. The reason I say that is because it's not JUST a memoir, this is an important piece of literature. The story Mr Jourdan shares with the world herein are profound and utterly inspiring.

Most memoirs I have picked up are from people trying to establish their own self-importance for something they have done and want to go down in history, frankly I find those sort of mem
Mar 06, 2012 Imke rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
The book sucked me in right from the beginning. Consciously putting it down now and then, I wanted the experience of reading it to last longer. I didn't manage to stretch it much; the book hasn't even been in my possession a full day.

Phil's honesty is what made this such a great read. I smiled, I was surprised, concerned, sad and intrigued. His relationship with his mother, his struggles and his questions were all equally interesting and thought-provoking. Even though Mathilde wasn't a big part
Jack Joslin
Feb 08, 2012 Jack Joslin rated it it was amazing
How does one deal with the unexpected loss of someone close to them? More importantly, how does one do so in a way that will preserve the character of the deceased in an honest and heartfelt way, without utilising battered formulae and tedious elegies?

Look to this book. Phil Jourdan discovers the life - and loss - of his mother by turning the gaze inward, excavating his own flaws and delusions, trying to get to the core of what made her her. It is a great debut work - beautiful, funny, intellige
Michael Gonzalez
Feb 27, 2012 Michael Gonzalez rated it it was amazing
It took me a while to figure out why this book felt a bit familiar and different all at once, and then it hit me: Holden Caulfield (stay with me here...). I hated Catcher in the Rye, and the reason I hated it had everything to do with the kid at the center of the whole thing. Snivelly, whining, a chip on his shoulder, angry at the world. In short, everything the Phil we see in this book is not.

Phil is on a quest for understanding. There's a refrain in the book - why? Why did this happen? Why don
Irina Marina
Feb 08, 2012 Irina Marina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: translated
If you love your mother, this book will touch you immensely. If you don't love your mother - or you simply don't give a damn - this book will show you what a son's love is all about and you'll wish you did. Phil Jourdan describes his mother mostly through their life together, focusing on the more troublesome moments, when she - Sophia - had all the patience and love in the world for a kid who was not on the right track. He lets facts speak for themselves, typical descriptions of his mother are s ...more
May 03, 2012 Leonor rated it it was amazing
Praise of Motherhood feels like what you would imagine a brain like if it were in book form. All over the place, but without ever feeling too far away from the core.
Phil's mother is portrayed in an god-like manner, always understanding, kind, smart, and mysterious, which you perceive through the isolated incidents and dream-like hypothetical scenarios that are the chapters. Nearly impossible to put down, I devoured in in less that a day. Intensely thought-provoking, really makes you wonder about
Jul 20, 2012 Renee rated it it was amazing
Praise of Motherhood is a short, honest, and moving piece of literature. Jourdan gets to the heart of what it is like to be a son, what it is like to be a mother, and what it is like to grieve. You will leave the novel feeling closer to your parents, closer to Jourdan, and closer to the kind of enlightenment new literature often promises but rarely delivers on.
Leila Summers
Aug 06, 2012 Leila Summers rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
I was given this book to review as part of a blog tour.

This story begins when the author, Phil Jourdan, receives news that his mother, Sophia, is in hospital and that he needs to fly home to Portugal right away. By the time he and his sister arrive, it is too late. Sophia’s tragic death from an unexpected brain aneurysm leaves Phil feeling completely out at sea. This book is his way of trying to make some kind of sense of the enormous loss of a woman who played such a supportive and pivotal role
Melissa Storm
Phil Jourdan's memoir Praise of Motherhood was not at all what I expected. Somehow I was thinking he'd dish up a collection of cutesy stories related to his mom--maybe a recollection of how he made her pancakes for mother's day at the age of eight and burnt the flapjacks terribly but she still ate every bite. No, that's not what this book is--it's much better.

Jourdan shows how his mother was there for him during his tortuous adolescence, how her patience and support allowed him to survive the d
Dakota Taylor
Jun 29, 2012 Dakota Taylor rated it it was amazing
Surreal. Short and sweet like a motherly kiss. A beautiful tale but not without its elements of dark humor. But the two are inseparable when writing about the subject of life and death. In fact, it defines most memoirs. Beautifully, dark. Jourdan does a masterful job at portraying the spectrum of human emotions through his carefully crafted characters that are so real on the page that the reader can't help but feel a part of his family. Phil drags us down with him in the trenches of the human ps ...more
Apr 18, 2012 Chenoa rated it it was amazing
Phil Jourdan allows the reader to explore his mind in this memoir about the loss of his mother. The ebb and flow of it imitates the mind's natural rhythm, which is, in itself, chaotic. And through such writing, the reader follows the grieving process, finding comfort in memories and imaginings.
Although Sophia passed on, Jourdan gives her new life as he and others remembered her: a compassionate, kind-hearted, strong woman with a touch of mystery. One can truly begin to understand the love that o
Aug 30, 2012 Anthony rated it it was amazing
I had no idea what I was getting into. Not only does this book place the reader directly inside the author's psyche as he moves through the grieving process, but you get the sense that the writing of this book played an integral part in completing that journey. This level of transparency without pretense or affect creates a very tenuous relationship between author and reader, where at any moment one could be taken out of the rather stream of consciousness narrative, but Jourdan seems to handle t ...more
Craig Wallwork
Apr 09, 2012 Craig Wallwork rated it it was amazing
Phil Jourdan has a natural gift for writing. He is sincere and honest, which is a rare commodity in a writer. It is almost as if the book is a physical extension of his body, his spine cracked and marked by the hours spent at the computer typing. And his heart, the many pages that are exposed when pushed open. A beautiful, sad, but resonating slice of human life. This book is as much about you, me and everyone else, as it is about Phil Jourdan. Wonderful stuff. Yes, it is a personal book, but it ...more
Jun 15, 2012 Dave rated it it was amazing
Praise of Motherhood is far from my standard reading fare, yet I found it immensely insightful, and read it in only two sittings. For anyone who's had a mother, this book will matter. There's something for everyone here, I most appreciate the insight into the relationship between a mother and son, often overshadowed in society by the "father/son" dynamic. A difficult topic to tackle, no doubt, and Jourdan masters it without diverging into a orgy of self pity. Brilliant.

Interesting, thought provo
Jun 02, 2012 Gordon rated it it was amazing
A short book, but not "a quick read," Jourdan puts his mother's sudden death into personal context, reflecting back on his own youthful psychotic episodes and how she dealt with them, the men in her life, and many unanswered questions that have him filling in the gaps with creative license. He doesn't want your pity, or your food platters, only for you to understand how much he misses her in the way only a son can.
May 28, 2012 Bookedpodcast rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
Listen to our full review here:
Aug 06, 2012 Amanda rated it it was ok
I have to admit my feelings about this book were all over the place. I had a lot of trouble getting into the book. Jourdan describes a childhood with a liberal mother who seemingly allowed her children, pets, and staff to do pretty much whatever they chose to do. Jourdan apparently chose to start fires. Frequently and using whatever was on hand or had recently annoyed him. He was a pyromaniac suffering from depression, psychosis, and describes himself as a sociopath. After reading further, thoug ...more
Apr 02, 2012 Flami rated it it was amazing
Praise of Motherhood is a jewel. I loved reading it, like I love all things that speak real life. And reading slices of Jourdan's life was no glossed-over experience, yet such a hospitable place: a weekend over at the funeral of a friend's mother. Provided he wasn't happy to see how many people showed up at the actual event, it's sweet being taken by the hand into this young author's educated voice and being showed around: what was before, and what's left of a mother who, in Jourdan's words, was ...more
Apr 04, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
As a way to prepare the reader I offer a quick summary from the back of the book: 'Psychoanalysis, poetry, and confession all merge to tell the story of an ordinary woman whose death turned her into a symbol for extraordinary motherhood.'

Reading this book made me feel like I was meeting a very delicate and vulnerable person and needed to be careful not even to think the wrong thing, lest I shatter a carefully constructed façade. You are in the middle of another person’s most painful and complex
C.L. Roman
Aug 06, 2012 C.L. Roman rated it really liked it
Praise of Motherhood by Phil Jourdan, is not, in fact, a book which praises motherhood so much as it praises his mother, a woman at once intimately human and ultimately iconic. It is a searingly honest, intensely personal memoir with a lazer-like focus on the relationship between an emotionally unstable child and the mother who loved him.

"To put it simply: I loved my mother because she was a terrible beauty, because she was my Mommy, because she was Love manifest. It was a religious, feverish th
Liesel Hill
Jul 30, 2012 Liesel Hill rated it really liked it
Praise of Motherhood is a very interesting book. It's very...different. And I don't necessarily mean in a bad way. I'll admit that when I first started this book, I didn't like it very much. The narrator is very negative and his view of the world is rather odd. If I hadn't already committed to reading it in order to be part of the blog tour, I probably wouldn't have finished it.

That said, I'm actually very glad that I'd committed to the tour, because I'm glad I stuck it out and finished the book
Jessica Karbowiak
Oct 06, 2012 Jessica Karbowiak rated it it was amazing
"Everything takes on a certain importance when you feel you've lost the biggest part of the world. You are forced to adjust your eyes and see the little things. Feel your way through the impalpable black."

When Phil Jourdan writes this early in his memoir, I am hooked. Told in sparing prose with an honest and sensitive bite, the images and conversations Jourdan recollects about his relationship with his dead mother illuminate a complicated pair of individuals seeking solace in one another. At tim
Aug 13, 2012 Jai rated it it was amazing
You know how with some novels, you don't really get into them until after a few chapters? This is not one of them. At page 4, I put my hand on my heart, and told it to be still and strong because this might hurt a bit.

It did. A lot.

My praise for Phil Jourdan (which I wrote on my notes) started with his prose - the flow of his words was amazing. I think because of his honesty, all the words fell into their right places (probably even if he didn't try).

Everything else followed: the story, the char
Aug 08, 2012 Kathleen rated it really liked it
The Praise of Motherhood is a poignant memoir that will pull at your heartstrings. Written in a thoughtful way, author Phil Jourdan weaves an inspiring story that is filled with raw emotion and honest reflections of his life with his mother, Sophia. The reader is immediately drawn into Phil's story, you can't help but feel the full gamut of emotions as he reveals a most candid and vivid description of his childhood and the pain of the personal loss of his mother.

The Praise of Motherhood is a tou
Martin Garrity
Feb 17, 2012 Martin Garrity rated it it was amazing
Phil Jourdan has chosen an interesting style for his memoir. The timeline isn't linear, and there is a large amount of speculation and projection on his behalf. These tools he chose to use work well. They help us get a true grip on his mindset, and for such a short book it is impressive how much of a portrait he manages to paint.

The book is very sad at times. Read the first chapter for a good example of how well Phil can handle sensitive and painful matters. He does this a few times along the wa
Alexandrea Hills
Mar 29, 2012 Alexandrea Hills rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I won this good through Goodreads giveaways.

Phil Jourdain is well-read, citing Freud, Oedipus, Kafka and other great minds, challenging their thoughts and applying his own. He is a very intellectual write.

You follow Phil's childhood and adolescence, and you begin to understand his feelings, doubts, fears, thoughts and obsessions. You feel his intense pain of being alive and feeling out place in society.

I think this book is more about Phil's life and what he goes through then about getting to kno
Sarah Butland
Nov 30, 2012 Sarah Butland rated it it was amazing
Phil Jourdan is brilliant and troubled. His simple words, complex experiences and troubling therapeutic methods equal a brilliant novel that you can tell is both healing and feel how touching it is.

With his mothers sudden death in 2009 Phil expressed his journey through life with a mother who loved him and stood by his interesting antics. The answers she left will live on with him and his readers forever but so will the questions.

Was she really a spy? Did she really die? What was real and imagin
Underground Book Reviews
Jun 05, 2013 Underground Book Reviews rated it it was amazing
Praise of Motherhood is a memoir about the life and death of Phil Jourdain's mother, who stood by him throughout his tumultuous childhood. As much as the book is about his mother, it is about him: the hallucinations and violent urges that hospitalized him and defined his youth. To me, the book is a psychological study. On the one hand, we have a well-read, analytical narrator who seems to have his wits about him. On the other hand, we have a psychotic young man who simultaneously hates and loves ...more
Feb 12, 2012 Gabriella rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic and unique book, both a memoir and a novel, as honest as it is imaginative. Phil Jourdan deals with the question of what a person leaves behind after they die and the parts of them that will always remain hidden. He is warm, candid and questioning- all things that make this book more than just a touching account of a son's relationship with his mother, but also an intelligent and stirring exploration of our understanding of ourselves and the people we love. A genuinely wonder ...more
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Phil Jourdan is the author of Praise of Motherhood (Zero Books), What Precision, Such Restraint (Perfect Edge) and John Gardner: A Tiny Eulogy (Punctum Books).

He is editor of scifi and fantasy at Angry Robot, and managing editor at Repeater Books.

He is one of the co-founders of the online writing workshop and lit magazine, LitReactor.
More about Phil Jourdan...

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