PLEASE NOTE: Sold under the tile "Nutmeg" in Britain.
I loved the beginning of the book:
" I came out a little underdone. Five more minutes and I would have been as big as the other children, my mother said. She blamed my pale complexion on her cravings for white bread (too much flour) and asked the doctor if I would have risen better had she done more exercise (too little air). The doctor wasn’t sure about this, but he was very concerned about the size of my feet. He suggested that next time my mother was pregnant she should try standing on her head or spinning in circles (spinning in circles on her head would be ideal) as this would aid the mixing process and result in a better proportioned baby."
Meg's mom had an obsession with food which lead to the most outrageously funny fantasies about her daughter's first five years on this planet. At first I laughed, because the stories were so unbelievably creative and funny. I would not have minded to have a mother with an imagination like that all.
But truth be told, I was seldom so touched by a book that I sat with a mouth full of teeth, not knowing what to say in reviewing a book. If I blurted out 'magnificent', I still would have to explain why, in which case it will become necessary to quote this entire book in the review!
A 21-year old girl, Meg May, arrives home after earning a degree in science. She is coming home to take care of her dying mother. It is soon clear that mom's outrageous fibs and fiction hid a mystery about Meg's childhood that she was unable or unwilling to reveal to Meg.
"Throughout her pregnancy my mother suffered all manner of complications. She was overcome by hot flushes several times a day which the midwife blamed on a faulty thermostat, and experienced such bad gas that a man from the local gas board had to come and give her a ten-point safety check. Her fingers swelled up like sausages so that every time she walked down the street the local dogs would chase her, snapping at her hands. She consumed a copious amount of eggs, not because she craved them, but because she was convinced the glaze would give me a nice golden glow. Instead, when the midwife slapped me on the back I clucked like a chicken."
As a young girl, the world of fairies and talking animals only brought rejection from Meg's school friends, which left her lonely and growing up fending for herself in the harsh world of school and mean neighborhood kids. Now, as a grown-up scientist, she wants her mother to finally face reality and tell the truth and stop dodging her own story. Meg is convinced that people who believed in fiction and fantasy were gradually rotting their brains. Their fictional world was destroying them day by day, like a maggot eating away at their brains. Life has taught her that science is the only way to address the world and it's challenges. Science is her way of addressing life. It is the social home where she finally is accepted and respected.
The gardener, Ewan, appears out of nowhere, starts talking to the trees, asks the frogs nicely to leave the garden and explains to snails why they are not welcome. Valerie, Meg's mom, finds a soulmate, which drives Meg to more antagonistic behaviour. But Meg has a few lessons to learn, of which the first one is that Ewan might sometimes have his head in the clouds, but his feet are firmly on the ground.
When Meg finally discovers the truth behind her mom's fantasy world, she is devastated. As she meanders back into her mom's past, she slowly begins the walk on the road of healing and understanding. Forgiveness comes slowly and quietly.
It is the second mother-and-daughter book I read this year that had me in tears. First of longing and sadness, and then of joy. The biggest compliment a daughter can give her mother is to finally be able to say to her: " I am everything you ever taught me, even when you thought I wasn’t listening."
My mom never had to tell me fairy tales like this. She did not have to rewrite my history for me like Meg's mom. This book shocked and shook me to my deepest core. This book is so multifaceted it is very hard to write a complete review on it without turning it into a dissertation! Apart from the delightful fibs and fantasy in the book, it also addresses a magnitude of emotions, perceptions, approaches and -isms that can enhance or destroy lives, depending on how we apply it to our own life stories.
I recommend it to all mothers and daughters alike; to fathers and brothers who always wanted to know what the real magic in fairy tales is all about.
I wanted to rate it five stars for excellent writing, originality and plot, but if it was possible, I would have added another five stars for the unbelievable emotional journey it invites the reader on. Nobody will walk away unscathed from this experience.