1 review

The Habit
by Susan Morse

Published: 2011-11-08
Kindle Edition : 0 pages
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Colette may be right. She thinks I imprinted unnaturally on Ma at birth, like a foundling duck hatched accidentally in the nest of a needy, scatterbrained rattlesnake.  From the time she was born, Susan Morse was her mother's "special" child. For Susan, special translated into ...
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Colette may be right. She thinks I imprinted unnaturally on Ma at birth, like a foundling duck hatched accidentally in the nest of a needy, scatterbrained rattlesnake.

From the time she was born, Susan Morse was her mother's "special" child. For Susan, special translated into becoming her incorrigible mother's frazzled caretaker, a habit that continued into adulthood. Now she finds herself in the middle of the sandwich generation, responsible for a woman whose eighty-five years have been single-mindedly devoted to identifying The Answer To Everything. And, this week's Answer looks like it may be the real thing. 

Susan's mother is becoming a nun.

Mother Brigid is opinionated and discerning (Don't call them trash cans. They're scrap baskets!) feisty and dogmatic (Stop signs and No Parking zones are installed by bureaucratic pencil pushers with nothing better to do), a brilliant artist (truly, a saving grace), and predictably unpredictable, as demonstrated by her recent decision to convert to Orthodox Christianity and join its holy order. Dressed in full nun regalia, she might be mistaken for a Taliban bigwig. But just as Mother Brigid makes her debut at church, a debilitating accident puts her in a rehab center hours from Susan's home, where Susan's already up to her neck juggling three teenagers, hot flashes, a dog, two cats, and a husband whose work pulls him away from the family for months at a time. Now Susan gets to find out if it's less exhausting to be at her mother's beck and call from one hundred miles away or one hundred feet. And she's beginning to suspect that the things she always thought she knew about her mother were only the tip of a wonderfully singular iceberg.

In this fresh, funny, utterly irresistible memoir, Susan Morse offers readers a look at a mother-daughter relationship that is as universal as it is unique. For anyone who's wondered how they made it through their childhood with their sanity intact, for every multitasking woman coping simultaneously with parents and children, for those of us who love our parents come hell or high water (because we just can't help it), Susan Morse's story is surprising, reassuring, and laugh-out-loud funny. A beguiling journey of love, forbearance, and self-discovery, The Habit introduces two unforgettable women you'll be glad to know--from a safe distance.

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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Was there one particular part that made you laugh out loud?
Were any of the situations Susan was dealing with familiar to you?
What did you think of her mother's artwork?
by ccg1301 (see profile) 01/28/12

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

“Susan Morse writes in a dream state, and The Habit is funny and moving and wise. After reading it, you'll see Susan’s mother in a whole new way, and your own mother, too.”— MICHAEL BAMBERGER, AUTHOR OF THE SWINGER

“A sometimes searing, often hilarious account of a mother-daughter relationship Hallmark probably doesn't have a card for.”— ELLEN GRAY, PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS

“Susan Morse’s memoir is wonderfully obsessive and laser-focused on deconstructing the most formative, troubling, infuriating, loving, and pervasive relationship of her life: that with her mother.

“Her mother is a vivid character—spiritually restless, self-absorbed, eccentric, and deeply artistic, and Susan’s epic effort to differentiate herself from the consuming power of this unique woman is every woman’s struggle, but writ large, crazy, and funny. Susan’s narrative voice is free and immediate, and carries us through the stages of her mother’s illness with sharp eye to the surreal aspects of modern cancer treatment. Those details, although deeply personal, strike a universal chord with those of us who have witnessed the last faltering stage of a parent’s life, and she provides a bracing, refreshing perspective.”— ROSANNE CASH, AUTHOR OF COMPOSED

“Just start reading this memoir and you will be hooked. In her portrait of her hilarious and heroic struggle with an almost impossible mother, Susan Morse has captured the mother-daughter paradox like no one else in recent memory. Her stingingly honest portrayal of her aging ‘Ma’ (who, at age eighty-five, takes holy orders as Mother Brigid) is balanced by Morse’s own unflinching look at herself. There’s towering rage, as she juggles Ma’s eccentricities, the nightmare of our healthcare system, communications with far-flung siblings, raising three teenagers, and trying to maintain her own sanity. But exasperation is balanced by a tenacious affection that shines through this extraordinary journey with that most unlikely of outcomes: acceptance, joy, and a hard-won peace between two amazing women. Susan Morse is a writer to relish now, and to watch for in the future.”— REBECCA PEPPER SINKLER, FORMER EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“If you are a person who thought you could not possibly enjoy a memoir detailing the various heath crises of some other person’s mother, I am writing this to tell you that you are flat-out wrong, and that you must read Susan Morse’s sly, smart, moving memoir, The Habit. Morse’s caustic, changeable, demanding, smarty-pants mother is a late-life Sharon Sedaris, had Sharon Sedaris lived and become an Orthodox Christian nun in her eighties, and Morse herself is a crackerjack guide, filling the book with rich anecdotes about her Fitzgeraldian (is that a word?) relations and hilariously describing her many spirals up and down through the American healthcare system, aargh, such as it is. Her imaginary dialogue with an HMO administrator itself is a masterpiece of exposed subtext and should be distributed, pamphlet-like, in the interest of all ailing citizens, throughout the land. Morse also employs the term “crackly-fart,” can you believe it, as a VERB. The minute I read that, I knew I was in very, very good hands.”— CYNTHIA KAPLAN, AUTHOR OF WHY I’M LIKE THIS

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Fun read for everyone especially those dealing with elderly parents or grandparents!"by ccg1301 (see profile) 01/28/12

We all agreed we enjoyed reading the book. Some parts made us laugh out loud, other parts made us tear up. Susan Morse did a wonderful job putting into words what it is like to be dealing with an elderly... (read more)

  "A fun read about aging parents!"by ccg1301 (see profile) 01/27/12

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