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The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers

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In this lyrical and deeply moving memoir, one of America’s most revered actresses weaves stories of her adventures and travels with her mother, while reflecting on the beautiful spirit that persists even in the face of her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Marcia Gay Harden knew at a young age that her life would be anything but ordinary. One of five lively children born to two Texas natives—Beverly, a proper Dallas lady, and Thad, a young naval officer—she always had a knack for storytelling, role-playing, and adventure. As a military family, the Hardens moved often, and their travels eventually took them to Yokohama, off the coast of Japan, during the Vietnam War era. It was here that Beverly, amid the many challenges of raising her family abroad, found her own self-expression in ikebana, the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging.

Using the philosophy of ikebana as her starting point, Marcia Gay Harden intertwines the seasons of her mother’s life with her own journey from precocious young girl to budding artist in New York City to Academy Award=winning actress. With a razor-sharp wit, as well as the kind of emotional honesty that has made her performances resonate with audiences worldwide, Marcia captures the joys and losses of life even as her precious mother gracefully strives to maintain her identity while coming to grips with Alzheimer’s disease.

Powerful and incredibly stirring, The Seasons of My Mother illustrates the unforgettable vulnerability and beauty of motherhood, as Marcia does what Beverly can no longer do: she remembers.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2018

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About the author

Marcia Gay Harden

9 books17 followers
Marcia Gay Harden is an American Academy-Award winning actress.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 71 reviews
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,002 reviews36k followers
April 13, 2019
Library Audiobook, read by Marcia
Gay Harden

Marcia Gay Harden’s mother has Alzheimer’s Disease. Both she and her mother have are living with Alzheimer’s.

Marcia said she wrote this book to preserve her mother’s memories.
Well, let me say: “mission accomplished”! I know more about Marcia’s mother than my own mother.

I’ll never be able to even hear the ‘word’, *Mayday*, without thinking about the tradition of Mayday in Marcia’s family.
I bet I’ll associate the art of Japanese flower arranging - Ikebana- with Marcia and her mother forever too.

Packed filled with life, family, flowers, nature, beauty - music, art, travel, loss, joys, sorrows, and love.

I’m still sad about an awful - earlier accident...
I won’t say what -but believe me - ‘really’ heartbreaking.

Yet - so many lovely warm-heartfelt stories in Marcia’s life too.

If looking for ‘mostly’ the details about Alzheimer’s disease itself - there are other good books that do that.
This one includes it -but is not the focus. Rather - it’s Macia’s life memoir with the emphasis on her mother.

People who have a deep organic relationship with the simplicity of life — an appreciation for what really matters -
will enjoy spending time with Marcia Gay (*Mud*, they called her as a child).

Pure beauty and graciousness!
Lovely writing: lovely voice!!!
Marcia radiates love 💕

Profile Image for Lisa.
Author 30 books9,755 followers
January 19, 2018
A fiercely loving and tender tribute to Marcia Gay Harden's mother, remembering for her and for us what Alzheimer's has stolen, filling those darkened holes with compassion, acceptance, beauty, and love. I loved how vulnerable and honest her writing is, the wonderful sensory details she includes--LOL-this is why she's a great actress! :) I savored every page and didn't want it to end.
Profile Image for Jennifer Blankfein.
384 reviews654 followers
May 15, 2018
In The Seasons of My Mother, Well known actress from stage and screen, Marcia Gay Harden, tells the story of her life in the context of memories she has with her mother. Their close relationship is so beautiful and all the more painful as her mother's memory fades with the effects of Alzheimer's Disease. Their mother-daughter bond is unbreakable and based on love, and due to the progression of the disease and the author's fear that all would be forgotten, it became imperative that stories were recorded.

Remembering the past with family and friends is how we all stay connected, and I applaud Ms. Harden for writing this book honoring her mother, her wisdom, advise, strengths and hobbies in this loving tribute, so her mother can be known and connected to her children, grandchildren and those that come after, and the memories are never forgotten.

This memoir struck a chord with me because my father is living with dementia and although our situations are different, I know from experience, the disease hits hard, stealing memory little by little until there is no recollection of people, language, how to get dressed, how to eat, really anything at all...truly devastating for family and friends to see the person they know and love and not be recognized or acknowledged.

Marcia Gay Harden says "In this book, I do for my mother what she can no longer do. I remember." I enjoyed getting a glimpse into Marcia Gay Harden's life and background, and witnessing though stories their powerful mother-daughter relationship. I am a big fan and love her in the movie Pollack and on the TV series Code Black.
Follow my blog Book Nation by Jen https://booknationbyjen.wordpress.com for all reviews and recommendations.
Profile Image for Janet.
575 reviews5 followers
March 12, 2018
This was a tough read for me. Being in Alzheimer's grip can make me want to put my fingers in my ears and sing LALALALALALA!, as if I can magically make it all go away. Like Harden, my mother has Alzheimers and it takes a little more of her day by day. Harden beautifully describes to us who her mother was before the disease stole her memories. She takes us through the stages of her life, the changes, the hardships, the triumphs. We learn her mother's strengths, talents, what is most important to her, who she is. She shares her mother's hand in her life as a daughter, their relationship and how it grew as she grew. I think this is, perhaps, the best way to deal with this stupid disease. To remember things about my mother that she would want to be remembered for.
6 reviews1 follower
December 20, 2018
I liked the book. It's well written in a simple and direct language.
However, to me, it often felt as a "pretty white world" where everybody's happy and
prosperous. It became a bit repetitive until the inevitable arrives. The characters seem to lack depth.
This woman was perfect wanting to live a perfect life in a perfect world. Hard to feel empathy.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,145 reviews28 followers
October 7, 2019
This book is so beautiful, in so many small, but meaningful ways that I cannot fully capture here. I recommend listening to the audio. This does what I hope all bios do when I start them: make me want to be the subject’s friend. And I feel like Harden is now a dear one.
December 27, 2018
When Marcia Gay Harden first gained notice in the Coen brothers’ film Miller’s Crossing in 1990, it was abundantly clear that there was something so unforgettable about her performance --- assuring moviegoers that they would be hearing from this actress again, and often. Over the years, from theater to film to TV, she has demonstrated something memorable in every role. And through this poignant tribute to her mother, we see where the seeds of creativity were first planted.

Growing up the middle child in a family of five children, Harden, along with her sisters and brother, were raised to have a keen appreciation and respect for the beauty around them by their mother, Beverly. Their Navy pilot father was away often, and during these times, Beverly would make sure that her children learned and honored traditions such as May Day, where they would arrange the most beautiful little nosegays and bouquets and then secretly deliver them to their neighbors’ doorsteps.

Beverly Harden, a woman raised in Texas, married her college sweetheart at 19, had her first child at 20, and proceeded to have four more children, all while supporting her husband’s busy military career, which frequently brought them to exotic ports of call. While the family was stationed in Japan, in order to learn more about this exciting culture, she enrolled in a class for Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. As Harden can attest, her mother “…loves the good things in life, the pleasant scents, the positive, the seen, the known.”

Now, as a mother of three herself, Harden tries to continue the traditions and appreciations with her own family --- traditions made even more poignant due to her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease. At any given time, either one of celebration or heartache, Beverly has turned to her beloved flowers for comfort, for artistic expression, or for just plain beauty. After the death of her husband, “Feeling an aching loss of companionship, stumbling over disrupted patterns, shocked at habits not necessary anymore, and lonely for purpose and partnership, Mrs. Beverly Harden tried to piece together her past, and look forward into her future. ‘Step over the cracks; step back into your life,’ she told herself. She turned to her children, and to her garden club, and to her flowers.”

And when the signs first appeared, Harden quickly saw the effects on her mother and the memories she held so dear: “That’s what the memories seem to do, evaporate. One minute a person’s ace, or the function of a spoon, is known. The next minute, it has disappeared and is replaced with confusion, or frustration, or amusement. Language tumbles out in no particular shape sometimes, words intersperse that once make sense but don’t. There is a stealthy, cowardly, dangerous protein in my mother’s brain neurons that is malfunctioning, causing the toxic buildup to remain in her brain’s neural cells rather than be washed away…. This is a disease with no dignity, yet my mother has somehow managed to keep hers. Her appreciation of beauty remains as a purifier for her spirit.” That’s when Harden suggested they collaborate on a book together: a book about flowers.

Throughout this lush and lyrical memoir, Harden aptly demonstrates how her mother is “living” with the disease and not “suffering” from it. And through their undertaking to write THE SEASONS OF MY MOTHER, Harden has witnessed how Beverly, because so much of her past has been taken from her, truly lives in the present. “Be in the moment, now. That’s where my mother is. In the moment. Still teaching, still yearning, still loving.” Part of the reason for collaborating on a book with her mother was out of her desire to “…write a different story, or a defiant story, where my mother’s legacy will not be sleep, but rather the resilience and beauty of her spirit and a celebration of her art.” On every page of this moving, reverent and gorgeously written book, she has resplendently succeeded.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller
Profile Image for Anne.
22 reviews
April 18, 2019
I really enjoyed listening to Marcia Gay Harden reading her book - what an amazing tribute to her incredible Mom. Infused with humor, gratitude and most of all love, this is a journey of reflection and appreciation for a life well lived. And I learned a lot about ikebana and flowers! I am a PT working in the long term care setting and spend much time with “the thief” of dementia, as she so aptly calls the disease - I always try to make sure I see and hear the precious person who is battling to keep their selves within the process of loss that is Alzheimer’s, and this book has given me more understanding and strength to continue to do so. Thank you Marcia Gay, and thank you Beverly 💛
Profile Image for Annette.
725 reviews1 follower
August 15, 2019
4.5 stars. Wonderful tribute by Marcia Gay Harden to her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel but I was not disappointed. The novel focuses on Marcia’s memories of her mother growing up, and the reader absolutely can feel the love, friendship and respect Marcia has for her mom. There were a couple of times when the language was too flowery, as if the author was trying to plant as many adjectives into the paragraph as possible. There is also one line that I was rather offended by - “that my mother might have early onset dementia, or worse yet, Alzheimer’s”. As a child who has watched her mother disintegrate with dementia, I would argue that dementia is no better than Alzheimer’s. They both suck.
Profile Image for Georgetowner.
229 reviews
January 8, 2022
Beautifully written in sentiment and in style. At times it is lyrical even, as a love letter to Harden’s mother. How refreshing from a successful movie actress!! Harden very much comes across as humble and authentic. I am from Washington DC, so I especially enjoyed hearing about her years there. A couple small faults with the book as a reader is that it skips around, and sometimes repeats an event briefly because of this, and she goes on a bit too long about her labor giving birth to her first child. The book is laid out by seasons, which is lovely, but may contribute to the brief repetitions I disliked.
Profile Image for Michelle.
311 reviews14 followers
May 15, 2018
Marcia Gay Harden
The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers
Atria Books
Hardcover, 978-1-5011-3570-5 (also available as an e-book, an audio book, and on Audible), 336 pgs., $26.00
May 1, 2018

My mother thinks herself timid. This is incorrect. I confess to teenage contempt at what I (mis)perceived as weakness. In truth my mother was strong, knocked down by circumstances never contemplated or prepared for, and got back up, repeatedly. The most affecting passages in The Seasons of My Mother concern the transformation of the mother-daughter relationship into something closer to friendship. I think my mother and I are doing that now, acknowledging a more equal footing.

The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers is the first book from actress Marcia Gay Harden, winner of an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Pollock (Sony Pictures, 2000), and a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for God of Carnage (Yasmina Reza, 2006). By turns gentle and fierce, elegiac and exuberant, The Seasons of My Mother is a loving tribute to Harden’s mother, Beverly, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“This week on my to-do list is ‘Book a … brain scan,’” Harden writes. My grandmother suffered from dementia in her late 80s, and her daughter — my mother — fears she will be struck as well. My mother and Beverly Harden, and Marcia Gay and I, have quite a bit in common. “It made me respect the ability Mom had for control and reserve,” Harden muses. “Perhaps it wasn’t timidity at all … but simply self-control?”

In chapters with titles such as, “My mother is an orange hibiscus in a brown coffee cup” and “My mother is a driftwood ballerina,” Harden remembers the seasons of her mother’s life because Beverly no longer can. With honesty, sensuosity, and self-deprecating humor, Harden introduces us to a nineteen-year-old bride who married a naval officer-in-training. During the next ten years, Beverly Harden gave birth to five children and followed her officer around the world. In Japan she learned the ancient Japanese art of flower-arranging called ikebana.

Harden uses the concepts of ikebana to relate Beverly’s Texas roots, traditional rituals, and blossoming in Japan. Alzheimer’s is the invasive weed, the destructive nonnative species. Harden writes lyrically about the different kinds of memory — tactile, auditory, visual, emotional, atmospheric. Harden paid attention when Beverly talked about her beloved blooms. The Seasons of My Mother is an education and an inspiration in flora and the natural world, a celebration of the senses.

A lovely volume, The Seasons of My Mother is wrapped in shades of lilac, symbolizing innocence, a reminder of first love, and confidence in the recipient of the flowers. The interior is graced by candid photos of Harden with her mom and delicate drawings of hardy flowers.

Often spiritual, The Seasons of My Mother is Harden, in appreciation and admiration, stringing vignettes like pearls on a string. She tells us the story of Beverly becoming herself and then, not losing herself, but losing how she became herself, a homemaker in the truest sense, offering not sacrifices, but gifts.

Here’s to all the mothers in my life. Thank you.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.
Profile Image for Holly Tracy.
63 reviews
June 17, 2018
It’s written like a fairytale, almost. It’s not as much of a focus on Alzheimer’s as a memoir devoted to her life with her mother and how the teachings have come full circle. The grief is honest, MGH’s memories of herself and her interactions with her mom are honest even when they paint her as imperfect...she’s not afraid to show when she’s been vain or self-centered without justifying it. Everything weaves together and paints a beautiful picture that feels almost like a family memorial to memories now that they’re so precious and it’s a race to recall everything possible. A record of a real family (who just happens to have an Oscar winning actress in it) facing a very real disease that takes the one thing you have towards the end of your life, should everything else become less reliable...your memory. I cried several times knowing how similar to her mom I felt at times. It’s heartbreaking and heart-warming and I feel awful for not having read this sooner. I got this via a Goodreads giveaway and I swore I’d read it the second I got it. It was release 5/1 and here it’s 6/16, I’m just finishing it because I just picked it up last week. I should have read it sooner because I find it that powerful. So many people are getting this book as a gift...everyone can see a piece of themselves in it and everyone will find something to relate to within. Please read this. Don’t wait.
643 reviews7 followers
March 2, 2019
A daughter’s loving tribute to her mother. I was expecting to read more about how Alzheimer’s has affected Marcia Gay Harden’s mother Beverly but those details are mostly left out, perhaps out of respect. The early part of the book describes how Beverly blossomed from a demure young woman to a proud and well respected teacher of the Japanese art of ikebana flower arrangement. It makes me want to learn more about ikebana and I wish there had been pictures of some of Beverly’s arrangements. The second half of the book seemed to be more about Marcia, and for me it was less satisfying. Although I’m sure she’s probably a very accomplished actress, she comes across as somewhat insecure.
Profile Image for Keeley .
510 reviews12 followers
March 24, 2018
I received this one for review from NetGalley.

This was definitely not what I was expecting as far as a memoir about Alzheimer's, but I really enjoyed it. Marcia Gay Harden's mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2011, but the majority of the book is a beautifully written look back on her life with her mother and the impact that she has had on her life and career. She uses her mother's love of flowers and the Japanese flower arranging art of Ikebana to move the reader through the ups and downs of her life as a waitress, then actress, mother and ultimately caregiver.

I really appreciated the focus that is given on her mother as a person rather than on Alzheimer's as a disease. This is a great addition to the handful of books being written by family members on the topic and I'm happy to recommend it to anyone looking to learn more about how memory changes and what dementia looks like for families.

I had some issues while reading it, but nothing that was enough to totally take me out of the narrative.
Profile Image for Lacy Lynch.
4 reviews10 followers
May 5, 2018
This is everything you want in a memoir. Beautiful writing, riveting stories, and truth. Not only do you learn more about what has made Marcia Gay Harden the person who she is today, you learn so much about yourself as you reflect on your own life and your mother/daughter relationship. It is fun to hear about her travels to New Zealand -taking her mother after a failed proposal plan with her current boyfriend, or to hear about a Car chase after the oscars when MGH took her mother on the red carpet with her after she won the Academy Award. But most of all, it’s so lovely to hear about the constant in her life, her mother and their shared commitment to beauty and art, and how that transcended many of the other more painful moments that we all go through in some form of life. This is an honest and true and wonderfully heartfelt and entertaining book. I’m passing it on to my mother and sister and woman that I care about in my life.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Grace.
368 reviews33 followers
September 19, 2018
By the end it was clear that this book was written out of fear that the author would end up with Alzheimer's, lost without memory and out of love for her best friend, her mother, who suffered from this heart wrenching disease. It's the story of her life as it intertwines with her mum's.

The story itself is a touching tribute to her mother and her own life. But, having read a few books and memoirs and Alzheimer, it added nothing to the whole of the story. This is just the story from a more privileged point of view of someone that has had opportunities to travel the world, then money to provide her mother with a relatively comfortable life in her sunset years.

Does that make it less of a story? No. It's well worth the read. If you haven't had a run in with Alzheimer's or even read about it, it will make you think. It will make you wonder about the stories you don't see. It will make you want to be more involved with your loved ones. That alone makes it worth the read.
Profile Image for Edward.
327 reviews
May 24, 2018
The actress Marcia Gay Harden tells the story of her life, weaving in the experiences she had with her mother from childhood to now. I can't adequately say how I feel about this book. I've read glowing reviews about how profound the book is, but I didn't experience it that way myself. One review in particular noted that she'd heard an interview with Harden where she expressed that perhaps the book would help others with their care providing for a family member in decline with this terrible disease which affects the whole family. It doesn't do that at all.
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,148 reviews
November 10, 2018
I had mixed feelings about this book. I liked certain parts, the memories and stories of Marcia's mother and their travels growing up. Some of the metaphors were so descriptive, especially those based in nature, the seasons, flowers and the art of ikebana. I didn't care much for the show business stuff, to me, it came off as stilted and presumptuous.

This is a hard subject to write about, losing one's mother to Alzheimer's disease. Marcia Gay Harden does so with grace, as I think her mother would want.

1 review
January 25, 2019
Lovely Book to Read and Listen

I, too, lost my beautiful, intelligent mother-&-my-best-friend to Alzheimer’s. I chose to read this on the anniversary of her passing, and it was balm to my heart. What a lovely honor Marcia gives her mother, Beverly, by recalling vivid moments of them sharing wits, talents, and insights. You will want the text edition for clarity of foreign words and places, but you really must listen to Marcia Gay Harden narrate — she’s a hoot! I walked the dog extra blocks just so I could keep listening to her masterful vocal performance.
30 reviews
June 13, 2018
This book is a lovely tribute of a daughter to her mother. Such an interesting live Beverly led. The love and admiration Marcia Gay Harden expresses for her mother is beautiful. I cried at the end of this book and I think that is my best review.
Profile Image for Darcie Morin.
Author 9 books14 followers
June 29, 2019
This book is absolutely beautiful!! It’s about love and family, growing up and taking care of your parents, flowers and the symbolic meaning they carry. Marcia Gay Harden should be proud of the beautiful tribute this book is
Profile Image for Carroll.
460 reviews
July 30, 2018
Obtained this copy as a gift from The Library Hotel in New York City when I showed it off to my daughter and granddaughter when we visited in June, 2018. The book was much more a memoir of the author, Marcia Harden, than of her mother, but that was okay since I've always liked Harden's acting.
Profile Image for Leona.
562 reviews6 followers
December 3, 2018
This is a beautiful story,I only wish there were photographs of the arrangements that Marcia supposedly made as inspiration. I think this would be a lovely film too, since a lot of it is visual. Honest account of family life in present times.
Profile Image for Gina McDonald.
349 reviews14 followers
July 15, 2018
This was not great for me although I was really interested in her story. Needed less poetry and more meat to the story.
336 reviews2 followers
July 30, 2018
Not a fan
Of this one! Marcia’s
Mother was an expert on the way of Japanese flower arrangements. I’d have liked this more if she had talked about her
Mother more
Profile Image for Stacie.
201 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2018
A lovely tribute by actress Marcia Gay Hardin to a parent whose memory is being stolen a little bit each day by Alzheimers. Heartbreaking disease.
Profile Image for Elaine Reed.
32 reviews
October 4, 2018
Beautifully written with amazing detail of a life well-lived. Although the subject matter should have made this a tough read, it was so well written I didn’t want to put it down.
Profile Image for Mesa Library.
224 reviews37 followers
December 28, 2018
This was a lovely memoir. Marcia wove her mother's story into her own beautifully. I was expecting there to be more about her mother's Alzheimer's but I was happy with what I got instead.
-Anna C.
Profile Image for Gerri Bauer.
Author 9 books58 followers
September 11, 2022
Read this if you've lost or are losing a loved one to Alzheimer's or to any form of dementia. The author's mix of memoir and love story to her mother works. The book is a touching depiction of love and loss, an introspective look at what's important in life and what isn't, and is a clear-eyed homage (warm but not sentimental) to growing up in the midcentury America many readers will recognize.

It's Harden's story about the journey with her mother that resonates the most with me, from before her mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis through the ups and downs that followed. I noticed key things that reminded me of my journey with my father through his dementia: how they retained their personality, character and sense of humor even when their memory was so diminished they couldn't even remember if they'd eaten recently. Not what they'd eaten, but if they'd done so.

Harden is a good writer. As she reminds us at the end of the book, Alzheimer's - and all dementia - is a progressive disease and it only marches forward. No matter how much we wish we could stop it.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
40 reviews5 followers
August 13, 2020
A very touching read. I recommend this book to anyone who has a loved one who has experienced or is experiencing Alzheimer’s or who would like to read a memoir that touches on a beautiful mother daughter relationship. I had seen Marcia Gay Harden act in a few things before reading this book but had no idea about her backstory. Reading this book humanized this actress for me. So often we see celebrities and view them as separate from the rest of the “common” people, but reading how Marcia shares the frustrations and sadness of so many who have parents and loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimers was relatable. I learned quite a bit about ikebana [Japanese flower arranging] too.

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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