Mothers of Sparta: Book summary and reviews of Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies

Mothers of Sparta

A Memoir in Pieces

by Dawn Davies

Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies X
Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Jan 30, 2018
    272 pages
    Genre: Biographies/Memoirs

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About this book

Book Summary

Discovered by Michael Ondaatje, Davies' dazzling literary memoir has shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott, and Jenny Lawson.

Some women are born mothers, some achieve motherhood, others have motherhood thrust upon them. Dawn Davies is in the third category. A six-foot-tall divorcee, she isn't chatty, couldn't care less about anyone's potty training progress, doesn't care to share her own children's milestones with people who don't love them. But even if she has never fit in with other moms, she has raised three children with her own particular brand of fierce, unflagging love.

In stories that cut to the quick, we see Davies grow from a young girl who moves to a new town every couple of years; to a misfit teenager who finds solace in a local music scene; to an adrift twenty-something who summons inner strength as she holds the hand of a dying stranger; to a woman dealing with difficult pregnancies and post-partum depression. And in her powerful titular story, we see Davies struggling with the weight of knowing that her son is deeply troubled.

Mothers of Sparta is not a blow-by-blow of Davies' life but rather an examination of the exquisite and often painful moments of a life, the moments we look back on and say, That one, that one mattered. Straddling the fence between humor and, well…not humor, Davies has written a book about what it's like to be a woman trying to carve a place for herself in the world, no matter how unyielding the rock can be.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Mothers of Sparta is a superbly written book, at times gently poetic, at times devastating. I was spellbound from start to finish." - Tim O'Brien

"Beautiful and painful all at once. A heartbreakingly honest book that I couldn't put down." - Jenny Lawson, #1 NYT bestselling author

"In Mothers of Sparta, Dawn Davies writes like an avenging angel. Her stories are poetic, moving, provocative, and bracingly honest as she trains her lucid gaze on some of life's deepest complexities: In the face of terror, betrayal, and impending loss, how do we love? And what does that love cost us? I've never read a book quite like this one, shot through with the light of an extraordinary talent and spirit." - Dani Shapiro, author of Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage

The information about Mothers of Sparta shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Diane T. (Slingerlands, NY)

Honesty
Mothers of Sparta is a hauntingly beautiful recounting of a life whose skin has been pulled back to expose reality. Dawn Davies draws you into her life and allows you to feel every nuance of her soul. It was refreshing to finish this book with the feeling of having read truth through laughter and tears. I loved the set up of the book, "A Memoir in Pieces" with each chapter a jewel. I could have done without "Men I Would Have Slept With". Definitely a book I will recommend to anyone, especially my book club!

Jean L. (Deerfield, IL)

Very moving
The book is both funny and heart-wrenching, but never maudlin. The author is a relateable everywoman who faces incredible challenges. Some essays were very moving. Highly recommended for any parent who has struggled with her own or her children's physical and mental needs. I gained a lot of insight from these essays.

Lori L. (La Porte, IN)

A Memoir in Pieces
I loved this book! In it, the author tells her life story in a series of essays. Her essays are so well-written and so immersive, you feel like you are living out the events she describes along with her. This book will bring you to tears and make you laugh out loud, as she shares the ups and downs of life as a female in this world.

Emily (Naples)

Mothers of Sparta
My ARC of Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies arrived a few days before Hurricane Irma struck Naples. While our power was off for five days, I was so captivated after reading the first paragraph that I continued to read it by flashlight and finished it in two days. Memoirs are my favorite genre and this one is at the top of my list of favorites.

The writing style was so striking so that I felt that Davies was sitting in my living room relating her experiences to me face to face. I laughed and cried with her as she talked about defining moments on her life's journey. Many of them were experiences and thoughts that closely paralleled many in my own life:

Her thoughts about God being "like a Santa Claus- a story told to,little kids so they would have something to grab on to when they faced realizations that death would one day happen to them..";

Her struggle with hypochondriasis and death;

Her fear that her husband would not like the real her;

The pie she made, unintentionally leaving the protective wax paper between the crust and the filling;

Her love of music, particularly jazz;

Her belief that "part of music was for sharing - the part that people can people can experience together";

Her thought that the children of other mothers are not as good as hers and that the carpool mothers talk too much;

Her conversation with her daughter who tells her that her public school is stupid, that she is not understood, and that she wants to punch her teacher;

Her experiences with her childrens' pets, leading her daughter to tell her: "You're the worst mom ever";

Her questioning the presence of God in the difficulties with her sociopathic son;

And, finally the excellent analogy she makes between herself and Spartan mothers.

This is a book I will recommend to my book club. I loved it and will definitely reread it again.

Lynne B. (Newmarket, NH)

Life is Never What You Expect!
This is the first book I have read that both wrenches your gut with heartbreak and makes you laugh out loud at the humor at the same time. Dawn Davies reveals her life in graphic detail, all her most intimate thoughts on childbirth, divorce, raising a blended family and a life full of pets. She writes her memoir in loosely connected chapters from various points in her life. Some are hilarious accounts of everyday life events interspersed with tragic and painful events which are unique to Ms. Davies. Just when you think this has been an extraordinarily well-written and entertaining memoir of life's ups and downs, she charges forward with an all revealing ending which brings your heart to a standstill. Davies says she listened to the song "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid" during her writing. She claims these words to be a warning for the memoirist. However, she left very little unsaid in her story. She is brazenly honest about the most brutal aspects of her life. I highly recommend this book but be forewarned that it will not "let you go" after reading it.

Linda J. (Ballwin, MO)

Mothers of Sparta
I can only describe Dawn Davies debut novel, "Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir in Pieces," as a book that I will return to again and again, if only to make sure that I absorbed it all.

The book is a series of essays, many of which have won awards.

Although the book does start at her early life, and moves into her first marriage and pregnancies, after that it does not follow any chronological order, and can be hard to follow, at times, but in realizing that the chapters are essays, it does make sense.

The book is not written in chronological order, and can be hard to follow, at times, but in realizing that the chapters are essays, and tackle a particular subject or time of her life, it begins to make sense.

Fans of Nora Ephron and Anne LaMott might recognize some of their traits in Davies' writing.

At times funny, at times heartbreaking, and at times brutal, Davies pulls no punches in her telling of her life.

The tagline on the back cover says it all – "Some women are born mothers. Some achieve motherhood. Others have motherhood thrust upon them."

Davies was that last mother.

Born into a family that moved a lot, Davies learned after a while not to get too close to her classmates because she knew that, in a few months, the family would be off again.

Being taller than any other girl in her class, she was also bullied at times, and this also played a part in the shell she built around herself.

As a teenager, she threw herself into the music world and the essay, "Two Views of A Secret" describes this love in the most unusual words I have read. When I finished the chapter, I thought, as a lover of music, "That is so true."

Although her first marriage produced three children, and she suffered with postpartum depression with each one, her husband was more involved in his work than his wife, and then, the "other woman."

She takes her children and returns to her last home state – Florida, which she never liked in the first place.

Each essay tackles a period of her life, and while some are written with a good dose of humor, one can sense the sadness lurking in the background.

Near the end of the book, she moves into the most heart-wrenching part – the trials with her son diagnosed as an autistic sociopath.

In her essay, "Mothers of Sparta," she explores the history of these mothers and what she experiences with her son. To read about her pain in raising this son, and knowing that there is no end to this road for her brought me an absolute admiration for what she goes through day after day.

Plus, I now have a deeper understanding of what parents of children with debilitating disabilities have to endure, knowing it will not get any better for the child, and the only thing they can offer is unconditional and undying love.

I hope Davies writes another book, because I would like to know how she is doing. Her writing dug into my soul, and I found myself re-reading each chapter, finding something new each time.

This book is one that will stay on my bedside table.

...23 more reader reviews

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Dawn Davies has a BA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and an MFA from Florida International University. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Special Mention, and her work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best American Essays 2015. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she does everything from work construction to teach college writing. Mothers of Sparta is her debut.

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