Morgan is like many American teenage girls --- strong minded, eager for independence, and in the midst of an emotionally turbulent relationship with her parents, in particular her mother. Morgan drinks, smokes cigarettes, lies to her parents, does all sorts of drugs, has sex, but somehow she is capable of persuading her mom to let her boyfriend spend the night in her bedroom. That's because Morgan's mother, Adair Lara, believes in her daughter unconditionally and is scared that asserting too much authority will drive her away and lead her into the hands of an irreversible fate.
Dare (short for Adair) has read her share of parenting books, but none of them can prepare her for the tumultuous experience she has embarked upon with her own flesh and blood. Dare can hear Morgan and her moody boyfriend, Zach, having sex and is certain that they stay up all night high on drugs. Although she may not be as firm with her daughter as some might expect, we never question her capabilities as a role model for her daughter and as a kind, loving mother. Dare works incredibly hard to keep her cool with her daughter --- she wants them to be friends. Although the truths of Morgan's life are heartbreaking for her to know, Dare wants to be sure that her daughter isn't keeping secrets from her, and so she continues to let Morgan in.
Eventually, as Morgan's behavior willfully breaks up the family and threatens Dare's relationship with others in the household, Dare first sends her away to various friends' homes, then gets Morgan a therapist and, ultimately, enrolls the family in a clinic where they are all forced to confront the feelings that have dominated them as a unit.
HOLD ME CLOSE, LET ME GO is a chronicle of this mother-daughter relationship and the evolution of their relationship during the most heated of their years together --- it is also about family on a larger scale. Dare, an award-winn ing columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, was raised in a large family. Dare's father, who abandoned the family when she was a child, reappears on the scene hoping to make amends after spending years in the desert by himself. Like many parents, Dare feels alone in her struggle, but with time she sees that her support network is vast and that she has many places to turn for help. Finding power and sound advice in the most unlikely place --- the stories and letters of her dying father --- Dare and Morgan stand at the center of a circle of friends and family that wrap around them like a safety net.
Adair Lara is a terrific writer because her prose is so honest. In writing this book, she has given herself permission to reveal all details of her experience raising her teenage daughter and has given us access to her world and those who inhabit it. This book will prove invaluable to parents of teenage children. For teenagers, this book is a hard look at adolescent pressures and proof that the angst will subside. A stunning, real study of the inner life of a mother and daughter, HOLD ME CLOSE, LET ME GO is what looks like the first of many books like this soon to enter the market.
As for happy endings, the conclusion here comes as no surprise. Time doesn't necessarily fly, but they do get through it. As suddenly as the mood swings swell, they subside, and peace is on the horizon.
Reviewed by Melanie Okadigwe on February 13, 2001