Nobody Home is an intimate memoir of quest and compassion. Through a series of vignettes Jacqueline Masumian paints a portrait of her troubled mother, a recalcitrant member of the WASP elite who, with a glass of bourbon always at hand, provides her children with a unique, haphazard brand of nurturing. Though wealthy, educated, and artfully witty, the woman has been deeply scarred by her past. This book reveals the mother’s story in the context of Jacqueline’s own, as she forges her way through adolescence, careers, marriage and divorce, seeking to comprehend the causes of her mother’s ragged moods and heavy drinking. Then the revelation of a shocking family secret provides a possible explanation but, in its tragedy, raises further unanswerable questions. This heart-warming narrative, peppered with touches of humor, reveals how little we know of our mothers, how resentments blur our vision and prevent us from having a true picture of them. In her quest to understand, Jacqueline discovers that her mother, though long gone, is still deep within her. She learns that by forgiving and embracing her mother’s failings, she is able to acknowledge and accept her own.
Jacqueline Masumian grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and currently lives in Connecticut. She has enjoyed careers as actress, performing arts manager, and landscape designer, and now writes short stories, blogs, and mini-reviews. Her stories have appeared in Five on the Fifth, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and Thrice Fiction, among others. Her website is jacquelinemasumian.com.
On the first anniversary of the release of Nobody Home I’m finally getting around to rating my own book! I wrote Nobody Home to tell my mother’s story. She was a complex and difficult human being, her life was worthy of investigation. And while I’m happy and proud I wrote the book, as many times as I reread and rethink the story, there are still lingering questions. If she were alive today, I wonder, would I have the nerve to pry and prod to get to know her better? Or would I be intimidated in her presence, unable to ask a single question? My book raises issues that I hope readers are inspired to address regarding their own mothers. And while I will never have all the answers about mine, one thing is certain: as long as I am alive, a part of my mother lives on.
Jacqueline Masumian presents a touching tale of family. Through the lens of adulthood, she examines her complicated relationship with her mother, a woman often distant and depressed. In telling her own story, she unravels her mother's, including precise, specific detail that draws the reader into her world. This memoir is a short read but fun.
Each chapter is a short vignette. Though most of them focus on both Jacqueline's life and her mothers, one or two of them (such as the St. Christopher's vignette) focused more on Jacqueline with bits of her mother. Though this story was very interesting, and one that I felt I had a lot in common with, I'm not sure it belonged in this collection, since its focus strayed from her relationship with her mom. The order of some of the vignettes was also confusing -- the chronology of the stories wasn't always straightforward
That said, Jacqueline paints a vivid picture of her troubled mother; her work will certainly speak to those who have had a difficult relationship with their parents.
This is a charming memoir by Jacqueline Masumian. From her childhood in Ohio, to her life as a landscape architect, via acting, singing and market research, she takes the reader through a vivid journey. The memoir tries to make sense of her distant mother and a father who left the family when she was a child. Attempting to understand one's family is something I suspect most of us do. Ms Masumian has made it possible for us to understand hers in a very readable way.
This elegantly written memoir is a delight to read. The author has a gift for touching all the senses and sensibilities of the reader, whether it is watching the flickering water of a clear running brook at the bottom of a ravine, smelling the tobacco of a grandfather’s pipe, tasting the Bourbon in her mother’s ever-present glass, running her fingers over the crystal perfume bottles on her grandmother’s dressing table, or hearing the rustling of dry leaves and crackling twigs beneath her feet.
The drama that encircles the author’s unconventional mother, the focal point of the book, enlivens, shocks and entertains. When the mother not only doesn’t object, but, actually encourages her twelve-year-old daughter to go out on a date with an eighteen year old babysitter (who has presented her with a gift of high heels that he wants her to wear on their date, no less), the reader wants to scream protectively, “No, no, no. Don’t go. Please don’t go.”
The author’s authenticity shines through her stories, charmingly told, as she brings us into her world. Despite the family’s wealthy background, she and her younger sister are forced to do the laundry using an old wringer washer and then hoisting the dripping clothes up through a cellar window to hang them up to dry outside. With no man around the house following her parents’ divorce, the “hard chores” are simply ignored by her self-absorbed mother, leaving the author and her younger sister to fend for themselves.
There is a lot of nostalgia laced throughout this memoir: watching the George Goebel TV show, listening to the record player, inflicting Chinese rope burns on siblings, electing May queens and their courts, attending Mrs. Ford’s dancing school, and memorizing Catechism answers in preparation for confirmation. There are many vignettes to savor from days gone by.
The recollections, insights, and reflections the author shares about her relationship with her mother provoke thoughts about our own maternal ties and what lives on within each of us from our formative years through adulthood as we face crises of our own. The author admirably embraces it all and finds much to cherish. To understand one’s mother is to understand oneself, not an easy thing to do.
Beautifully written, this is a book you won’t want to put down.
If you spent your childhood and most of your adult life — believing you did not really matter to your mother, would you just accept it, or try to understand it?
Jacqueline Masumian opts to explore a well of memories — some etched in the rough stone near the surface, others buried in the deep darkness. She strains to locate happy moments. Fleeting and few, they are associated mostly with visits to the beloved grandmother’s house or in escaping to sanctuaries “removed from the unease” of her “mother’s anxious voice.”
Who exactly was her mother? Why did this woman with six children under her care constantly swing on a pendulum between witty, well dressed, well read — and distant despair?
Cobbled together from many years of painful reflection, the chapters of this beautifully written memoir reveal glints of sunlight, in the otherwise dismal households the children inhabit, while largely ignored by not just a divorced mother, but really a visitation father as well. Both parents seemed pre-occupied perpetually to the degree of being psychologically absent a large part of the time from their children's lives. But, were they?
All of of our childhoods are different, even in the same family. We all miss some things, but we take away a personal string of pearls as we come of age. The pearls are of different colors and represent the traits we develop during our young lives. Sometimes, it takes a while to see the luster of the personal qualities, especially when the psychological deprivation has been so ever present and feels oppressive.
With the eyes of an adult, and with input from siblings, Jacqueline Masumian began to interpret scenes from the past more fully and reliably. Along the journey, we feel the loneliness and hear the ringing of the constant companion word --- “Why?” Though some memories stab her like fragmented shards, and others seem to quake like shape-shifting holograms, defying explanation for too torturous a time, the author stays with her search. The reward is surprisingly — compassionate insight, into herself and her mother, and an appreciation of the pearls her life has formed.
I received "Nobody Home" by Jacqueline Masumian as a Goodreads First-reads giveaway winner. Nobody Home is a memoir about the author's mother. Do we ever really know our parents? As children our perspective is very one dimensional and it often isn't until we're adults that we can achieve a more realistic viewpoint. The book was well written, at times it was funny, at others it was very sad. I was truly moved and isn't that the sign of a good book? Enjoy!
This book is a short, simple book, yet you can quickly tell that Jacqueline put her heart into it. A story about her mother, she recalls stories from her past, and searches for a deep connection with her mother in memory. In the end, she is satisfied.
Interesting. A series of vignettes of a family ruled by an inscrutable mother. Mom was never able to say "I love you," a crucial theme throughout her life, and those of her four children. Good read, fairly well written, and interesting insight into issues that haunt many of us throughout our lives.
This is one of those books that I picked up to start to read... and couldn't put down. It's a memoir written in a very personable style that invites the reader inside Ms. Masumian's life growing up with her divorced mother in rural Ohio. There are strange events, such as her mother's over-the-top Easter gift of a pet lamb to her two youngest children, which then ends up having free run of the house during a dinner party, much to the amusement of the guests. There are Christmases at her grandmother's which she calls "bedlam" with all the extended relatives. There are awkward dinners with her distant father when he takes them out to eat at restaurants and can't help but tease the waitstaff, to the embarrassment of his children.
A collection of vignettes and reminisces seamlessly strung together into a cohesive narrative, this book kept me completely engaged, extending through Ms. Masumian's adult life and troubles with her aging parents' health while she undergoes her own personal difficulties.
It's not a long book - only 144 pages. The one disappointment I had is that I would have liked to see more - more anecdotes of growing up on the banks of the Chagrin River, wandering through the woods, dealing with her mother's bouts of frantic depression and eclectic relatives. More about her adult life and problems. But despite dealing with some very serious issues, the book ends on both a wistful and hopeful note which left me wanting more. I'll definitely look out for new work by Ms. Masumian in the future.
I received this book from a goodreads giveaway. This was an enjoyable story to read. The author's experiences and memories of her mother tell a poignant story that was at times funny and other times sad.
I think it is safe to say Jean Inglis Lincoln won’t have won any mother of the year awards. Jacqueline Masumian childhood wasn’t exactly typical. The second youngest of four kids Jacqueline had to deal with a less than traditional family. Her parents divorced when Jacqueline was very young. She and her younger sister were several years younger than her older sister and brother. At one point her two female cousins came to live with them after their mother’s death. Jacqueline’s mother was not one to indulge in compliments or smother her children with love. She was critical and not always present in her children’s lives. She was always there just not with the motherly love a child craves. She and her mother had a complicated relationship many women can understand. There is love but not always unconditional love and support. This was a book about the complicated love between a mother and her children. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.