Drawing Free by Elena Aitken

drawing freeDrawing Free by Elena Aitken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Mothers get tired. They get frustrated easily. They love. They nurture. But, sometimes, they forget to take care of themselves, because everything and everyone else needs them.

For mothers who admit it’s not the fairy tale that famous actress-moms lead it to be, since most of them have outside help anyway, there are various ways real-life moms react to the life. Some tough it out and succumb to the loss of their former lives, falling into a depression that no one other than perhaps another mother would understand. Others publicly claim to relish in it, yet silently drink or sulk behind their closed kitchen doors. And then, there are those who wish to get the hell away.

So just what happens when one mother decides to take off? Elena Aitken’s Drawing Free explores that question with full force. An incredibly talented woman placed her creative gifts at the bottom of the pile for everyone else, inevitably risking her own sanity. She discovers the need to take a break, not just for herself, as she initially believes necessary, but for the sake of her family.

When I learned about Aitken’s upcoming book back in the fall tackling this subject, I was anxiously awaiting its release. No one wants to talk about a mother’s mind as she manages a household, kids, husband, work (inside or outside the home, doesn’t matter), aging parents, and… and… [fill in the blank]. A few years ago, I tried to write it for a character in the midst of such frustration, but stopped. That was my first novel; the draft’s in a drawer. After reading Drawing Free, I was encouraged to bring it out. (Thanks, Elena!)

Some readers may cringe at a mother’s decision to take time to herself, and perhaps so in the fashion Becca made. In the news, there have been many stories of mothers handling the new stress of motherhood and the impact of their marriages with unfortunate outcomes. Becca’s case was difficult and thankfully not as extreme as those. Nevertheless it was a life she simply couldn’t handle alone anymore. Actually, she just didn’t want it anymore.

Taking off, her family was forced to step in for themselves. While she rediscovered a lost passion within the most tranquil and picturesque setting that Aitken presented, she removed her binding cloak for mental freedom. However, for her family left behind, it wasn’t by any means pretty for them and it took tragedy to make them appreciate Becca and to understand that there was more to her than the life she’d morphed into. That same tragedy made Becca realize how much her family meant to her. Even so, in the path she discovered her individuality, acknowledging her own strength if her husband had asked her to permanently leave since she’d left without warning and very little contact. She recognized that in that case, she’d be okay.

I understood Becca’s cry, just as I understood Vivi’s crisis in Rebecca Wells’s The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and April’s decision in Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt. As their husbands stood staring at them with confused deer eyes, they were steep in the crises without a way to properly reach them, to understand. They tried, but couldn’t get it across. Becca’s husband did – with the help of an angel that all mothers in that case may wish to have, who would easily speak up with the right words to make their families understand.

These are the voices on the other side of the mommy spectrum. They need to be heard.  Now, given the choices that Becca made, she realized how fortunate she really was. By leaving, she did what best protected her as she discovered that saving grace as an answer for her  in so many ways.

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