Memoirs are not my usual genre but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Never Simple was written from a daughter’s perspective (Liz Scheier) of her life with her mother who had mental illness issues. It was written with honesty and some compassion as well. She wasn’t writing from the viewpoint of “feel sorry for me”, she was telling us how they lived. Scheier wanted to know who her father was and why she had never met him, how they paid their bills, and how she was allowed to stay with such an abusive mother. As Scheier grew older she was able to distance herself somewhat, but never deserted her mother.
Thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Liz Scheier has written a poignant memoir about growing up with a single mom who is mentally ill. This was difficult to read in parts because of the trauma Scheier suffered, especially as a child. It was well constructed. I cannot say I understood how she went from a years long relationship with a women to marriage and a child with a man in the span of one year but that’s on me. I thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this ARC.
As a memoir about living with a mother struggling with mental illness, I expected to get a deep look at what it looked like and how the author overcame these struggles. We do get a lot of that, but then at the same time it felt very disjointed and unbelievable. There was the mystery of who her father was, why her mother was hiding it from her, who her mother used to be, where the money was coming from, and how was she allowed to continue living with such an abusive mother?
It's hard to read for the heavy parts as well as the way Scheier kept trying to "save" her mother that she was also running away from. I recognize there's codependency after awhile, but while I won't fight against what someone believes is their story, and even though I can't fully put my finger on it, this just didn't sit well with me.
Thanks to NetGalley and Henry Hold and Co. for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Mental health is always a tough topic to cover, but Liz Scheier did so with wit and grace and bucketloads of bravery. It's one thing to write about it fictitiously but it's a whole other dragon to slay when you are putting your life out there for the world to consume. There is brutal honesty in these pages, and it's easy to forget that you are reading about someone's actual life experiences. We probably all think we have experienced the ultimate in family dysfunction with our own little tribes because we live it. But it's so very important to let others be seen in this world and tell their stories. I see you, Liz!
A well written saga of a painful relationship between a mother and daughter that may unexpectedly touch some buried wounds in many women. There was love between these two, but also much pain caused by an unrecognized and I treated mental illness. As Ms. Scheier becomes an adult, she learns that many things she has been told are not true and it causes her to question everything. As her mother’s illness begins to spiral out of control, she must make painful choices for herself and her preservation of sanity. Her honesty shines through the recounting and though a heart wrenching read, it is marvelous.
Ernest Hemingway said, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” In Liz Scheier’s book Never Simple, she does just that. She writes hard, clear, and honest about her relationship with her mother, one strained in the good times and irreparably torn in the worst. She had me hooked on the second page with this line: “No one lies like family.” Liz writes with such wit that, at times, I found myself stifling a laugh. But this is a memoir, Liz’s truth written in a brutally raw form. It’s the story of a mother suffering with borderline personality disorder and the daughter who struggles to manage both of their lives. She tried to get professional help, but it was never that simple. And ‘never simple’ is how she describes the impact of her mother’s bizarre behaviors on her own life from childhood through adulthood. The chaos only ceased when, two weeks shy of 80, Judith Scheier died. May her memory be for a blessing.
Certainly no family is perfect. When the last page is turned, readers may be grateful for the knots in their family trees. For others, it may send them on a search for medical diagnoses within their own bloodline. I applaud the author for her honesty and vulnerability. What a book!
I really enjoyed Liz Scheier’s Never Simple: A Memoir (March 1, Henry Holt and Co). Scheier centers her memoir around her mother, one of those whirlwind charming types who’s masking something darker beneath the buzzing facade. The story opens with Scheier learning the complicated truth about her father, who she’d been told died in an accident.
That lie is telling of her mother’s personality — diagnosed as borderline, Scheier says she can only believe things her mother says when she sees them with her own eyes. She’s also frighteningly violent and abusive, and this is only made less difficult and harrowing to read because of Scheier’s storytelling ability. She manages to make it darkly humorous and entirely page-turning.
Scheier describes growing up in New York City under fairly incredible circumstances: her mother finagled a fake social security number for her, and they lived in an apartment a block from Central Park despite her mother’s not working (she’d been a lawyer, until she suddenly quit and withdrew from public nearly altogether). The writing is so good and Scheier’s voice so confident that it’s clear she’s reached a healthy place for herself, and she shows much of that journey here.
It does turn into a story about her own foray into motherhood, and this topic is not for me. I definitely wouldn’t have picked this up if I’d known that would be such a heavy focus, but I like her humorous voice and fast-paced storytelling style so I ended up enjoying even that element much more than I expected to.
There are some informational gaps I think could’ve been filled in — this is very clearly a memoir of what she felt, remembered, and perceived versus a more research-based one like Ancestor Trouble. Where the heritage-research element comes in is around Scheier’s father, as well as her sifting through documents and objects after her mother’s death.
This will draw the inevitable comparisons to The Glass Castle, but I think they’re pretty apt here. It was satisfying to see how Scheier worked through her experience and developed as her own person despite difficult beginnings and her mother’s continuous roping her back into life to save her from disasters of her own making. It should resonate strongly with anyone with difficult mother-daughter relationships as well.
This mother / daughter memoir is my first 5 star memoir of 2022! Liz shares her experience growing up in 1990’s Manhattan with her single mother, who can be magnetic and charming, but also struggled with mental illness that results in violence and a loose relationship with the truth. This story hooked me within the first new pages. Liz paints a vivid and heart-breaking picture of what it's like to have an extremely erratic parent, who is always this black cloud over your head and you never know when it’s going to dump rain. And, she Perfectly encapsulates the very complicated emotions that go along with caring for a parent who has essentially ruined your life. I loved Liz's gallows humor and had deep empathy for her. This is also the kind of book you can tear through in a weekend.
For me this was a heart wrenching look at a Hild being raised by a borderline mentally I’ll mother.A woman with constant mood swings from overbearing to cruel.The author writes so well brings us into her world her lifeI hated to put it down,A memoir I will be recommending.#netgalley #henryholt
This was an interesting memoir that delved into the relationship between a mother and a daughter - but was unique in the fact that the mother suffers from borderline personality disorder. While I expected the memoir to be as harrowing as books like Educated and The Glass Castle, I would say it was not nearly as intense as either of those books. However, I think this book provides a great insight into what it's like to be a child that is being raised by a parent with mental illness. I'm sure that readers who grew up in similar situations will relate to many things in this book.
I thought it was well-written and really shows how that mother-daughter relationship can impact all areas of the child's life - from childhood into adulthood - and especially how it can impact the child's other relationships throughout life.
While some parts of the book were a little slow, overall I thought it was a really interesting read and would recommend it to anyone that has an interest in memoirs relating to growing up in unusual circumstances.
Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co for the eArc of this book in exchange for my honest review.
This is a unique memoirs about the author’s experience as the child of a mentally ill and abusive single mother. But it is broader than that. It’s the story of what it is like to be an only child of an unstable mother throughout each stage of life.
There are a few things that set this apart from similar memoirs. First, there is a strong sense of place in the author’s childhood in New York City in the 90s. Second, the author weaves her Jewish faith throughout the book. Third, the author spends a good deal of the book investigating her deceased father, whom her mother has lied about throughout the author’s life.
This author’s strength is painting images with her words. I loved experiencing New York through her words. She compellingly described the push and pull of an abusive parent. It is difficult to adequately explain this type of complex relationship, and the author does it well.
A memoir about a woman’s life with her mom who is mentally ill diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I have a family member with BPD and the author’s descriptions of the symptoms took my breath away - spot on. If someone with borderline doesn’t want to learn skills to overcome this illness they will continue to live in a precarious situation - which is what happens in this author’s life. She describes the ups and downs that come and go and breakneck speeds with which her mom’s temperament and circumstances change. A touching memoir and one I won’t soon forget. Heartfelt thanks to Henry Holt and Co for the advanced copy.
Scheier spent years sleuthing through her mother’s fabrications to discern the truth about her paternity and so many other things. That was the part of her memoir that I enjoyed the most. Her relationship with her mother was very fractious and full of discord. I empathized with her difficulties with her mother and all she has to deal with.
It’s a very revealing memoir and a touching one.
For me, memoirs are never pageturners, however, this book is an exception. I often found myself reading well past my bedtime after repeatedly telling myself, “just one more page.” It’s an extraordinary story, told with brutal honesty and witticism, in a way that makes you feel like the author is sharing the story with you at a casual get-together.
From a very early age Liz Scheier realized instinctively that her mother truly loved her, never missing a school event, field trip, class party, and was actively involved in the PTA. Judith Scheier wasn’t like other mothers: her exuberant happiness could shift suddenly and erupt in a boiling anger where Liz became the recipient of a terrifying attack of verbal or physical abuse. In this intense and courageous memoir, “Never Simple” (2022) Liz Scheier recalls an unconventional mother daughter relationship that was centered around Judith’s unpredictability from her drama, exaggerations, the untruths of fabrication, and the unending pain of confusion and deception related to mistrust.
The truth was that Judith Scheier could be just as sweetly charming as she was devious, often using her extensive legal knowledge to fool and intimidate others, claiming to have retired early from a profitable law practice. As a child, Liz yearned for any knowledge about her absent father, to see a picture of him, would this mysterious shadow father ever come to visit his loving and forgiving daughter? Judith simply refused to discuss him.
Liz was raised in Orthodox Judaism, with Judith’s warnings to maintain distance from all Christians—according to her, Christians were mainly responsible for the Holocaust and the mass genocide that claimed the lives of their relatives. In young adulthood, her rabbi assisted Liz in obtaining a legal birth certificate and social security number that was a requirement on FAFSA forms to apply for college scholarships. Any papers of documentation Judith had was falsified. Liz eagerly awaited the day when she could “blast” like a cannonball from her mother’s house— and never return.
After several years of emotional conflict and uncertainty, Liz’s domestic partner Laura abandoned their relationship. Liz, seemingly relieved, had no reservations or qualms about “switching teams” and quickly began dating Arie (a close friend since high school). Arie and Liz were married in a traditional Orthodox ceremony. Predictability, Judith, uninvited, dramatically crashed the wedding before the service.
It was eventually necessary for Liz to hire a forensic genealogist which brought her clarity and a peace of mind as details emerged uncovering the story of her missing father and his family.
From a distance, Liz monitored Judith’s instability due to acute mental illness and decline that led to housing instability. Liz explained repeatedly to the social workers that emailed or called:
“No, Judith could not live with her and her family or be anywhere near small children without close supervision.” As Liz monitored and advocated for her mother’s health and safety, Judith seemed to kick and scream every step of the way.
This compassionate debut memoir illustrates the power of unconditional love that ultimately shaped and strengthened Liz's own life experiences related to spirituality, love, marriage, and motherhood. Liz Scheier, a former editor at Penguin Random House, lives with her husband (Arie) and their two small children In Washington D.C. ** With thanks to Henry Holt and Company via NetGalley for the DDC for the purpose of review. "Never Simple" will be published on March 1, 2022.
Liz Scheier's memoir of her childhood is riveting. Liz's mother is borderline obsessed with her and can't stand to lose control of her daughter. She doesn't want Liz to have her own friends or life beyond their little NY apartment. When Judith begins to notice LIz having a life outside of her she is jealous and controlling. Liz can't handle this relationship and puts boundaries in place. When Judith hasn't been paying rent and her health begins to wane, Liz must take more control. This is a tale of a daughter who doesn't know how much to give and a mother that will take and take. Liz is overcome with regrets after the passing of her mother who seems to descend age and was thought to live forever. Liz finds out more about her mothers life after her passing then she did her entire life with her mother. This is a book of heartbreak and love that will be thought provoking and worry about your own life with co-dependent parents.
Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt & Company for the chance to appreciate this memoir and provide a review here. This review will be shared on instagram (pageus_of_books, twitter, my website (dont-stop-reading.com) and copied to goodreads, amazon, and B&N. I have listed this book as one to preorder as well on my bookshop.org affiliate page.
I cherished the elegant, powerful examination of her mother and her childhood that Liz Scheier offers readers in Never Simple. A memoir is appreciated for the bravery of examining a life, memories, and relationships and Ms. Scheier's examination of her mother's self destructive behaviors, her deceptions, and how these behaviors impacted Ms. Scheier as she had to learn about, process, and then examine the lies she had been told, is powerful and effective. The blend of compassion with pain is noticeable and I think is a testament to Ms. Scheier's willingness to trust herself to express herself openly and then to trust readers to understand how she can have such layered and complex feelings, even of compassion, towards her mother, who clearly did have some significant mental health struggles. The writing offers just enough emotional distance at times, in a good way, to allow readers to develop their own thoughts on Ms. Scheier's mother and the memories and experiences shared, making it easier for the reader to lean into the narrative without being overwhelmed by intensity. The book is reminiscent to me of Educated and The Glass Castle in terms of themes on parental mental health/controlling behaviors, complicated childhood experiences, and themes on children coming to realize that their parents are flawed.
There are so many important and well developed themes in this memoir that it truly is worth a close read and a discussion within book clubs and shared book chats. Space should be generated for this book when it is published as it does highlight how we need to examine the impact that mental health has on individuals and the repercussions of individual behaviors on others. I look forward to encouraging non fiction readers and book clubs to consider this book when it is published. I recommend this book for fans of those memories and who seek out memoirs of complicated family relationships, mental health, and resilience.
I thank the publisher for seeing the importance of this memoir and recognizing that this book will resonate with many readers in valuable ways; I was moved by this memoir and thank Ms. Scheier for being open with her writing and experiences. I appreciated the chance to reflect on this book as I compiled notes for this review.
Riveting memoir of a woman raised by a single mother who was alternately smothering and overbearing, and cruel and violent. The story is told with compassion that comes from time and distance, yet the pain is palpable. The mother lies about her history, her daughter's origins, and also seems to be able to charm and/or bully anyone who stands in her way. Sad and striking explanation of growing up and living with a mentally ill mother.