Acquired Book By: I am a reviewer for Hachette Books and their imprints, where I started reading titles by FaithWords which is their INSPY (Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction) imprint of releases focusing on uplifting and spiritual stories which are a delight to read whilst engaging your mind in life affirming and heart-centered stories. I found Hachette via Edelweiss at the conclusion of  and have been wicked happy I can review for their imprints Grand Central Publishing, FaithWords & Center Street.
I received a complimentary copy of “The Mother God Made Me To Be” direct from the publisher FaithWords (an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I have been purposely seeking out titles like this one:
As you might have noticed, every so often I focus on stories of motherhood & mumhood – which can be seen on the reading schedule I have for #20BooksOfAutumn (previously known as #20BooksOfSummer) as well as the stories you’ll find in my Story Vault. I take an active glance at emerging Fiction & Non-Fiction for stories of motherhood as I’m a Prospective Adoptive Mum (which I talked a bit about whilst reviewing ‘Red Thread Sisters’). I enjoy finding wicked good real and fictional stories which focus positively on Adoption &/or Foster Care whilst appreciating motherhood from more traditional angles as well.
When I first read the synopsis for this memoir, I felt led to read it because something about this woman’s story felt it was meant for me to read it. You might know what I’m talking about – readers have a built in sixth sense about the stories they feel motivated to read. This is one of those for me – in truth, every story I’ve blogged about these past four years I felt were ones I should be reading at one point in time or another – as being a book blogger is a walk of faith in of itself. Yet, on a personal note – I felt inspired by the small bits of this mother’s journey I knew about ahead of reading her fuller story and I wanted to be fully engrossed inside the rest of it. This is why I requested this for review – because I felt inspired even before I opened the book to the first page!
The Mother God Made Me To Be
Subtitle: My journey from newlywed, to mother of two, to single mom - trying to heal - and become the mother God made me to be.
by Karen Valentin
Source: Direct from Publisher
Karen lived an adventurous single life but longed for a family of her own. After years of maintaining her vow of purity and waiting for a man who shared her Christian faith, she fell in love with her best friend and co-worker. They married. She bore two sons. They divorced.
With humor, honesty and raw emotion, Valentin tells her story of wrestling between God's will and her own, with visions of happily ever after. In the midst of her weakness and grief, she experiences God's strength and restoration like never before. Through her family and friends, mission workers, the pastor of Graffiti Church, and her two beautiful boys, God turns her ashes to beauty and her sorrow into joy.
THE MOTHER GOD MADE ME TO BE contains a discussion guide for book clubs and church groups.
Places to find the book:
Published by FaithWords
on 5th September, 2017
Format: Paperback Edition
Formats Available: Trade Paperback, Hardback & Ebook
Converse via: #NonFiction, #INSPY, #Christian
My Review of the mother god made me to be:
I think the title is in part what led me to want to read this woman’s life story – each of us who has embraced motherhood has felt compelled to be a mother. Irregardless of where we are on the path towards motherhood (whether we’re awaiting to be Mums or are Mums already), there is a feeling deep within us to be nurturers and encourage positive growth for well-rounded self-esteem in children. In essence, we know we are meant to be caregivers and to help guide the coming generations into adulthood. Yet, what will motherhood look like for each of us? How will motherhood alight on our paths and what will be called to do as we embrace this new role in our lives? I know the answers are not readily known ahead of time – some of us will be tested more than others and some of us will find our journey will lead us to places we never felt we’d traverse.
Ms Valentin’s story reads like a time slip – as we move in and out of her time-line – first arriving at her wedding before back-tracking to see how she met her future husband. The pace works for this story because of how she’s written everything to flow in a fluid recountment of time. I liked her choices – of how she wrote this similar in style to a creative narrative you’d find in a fictional novel but with the added benefit of being a moving account of a lived life which you find in Non-Fiction. For me, the benefit was the hybrid style of her writing as it allowed me to soak into her story a bit faster than I generally do (with Non-Fiction) – you can feel immediately pulled into her narrative.
Things start out simple enough – she was working in New York City, finding herself unattracted to her best friend until circumstances change but what she gives us in those tender moments of ‘first contact’ with the man she would grow to love deeply is the time setting of when they were together – as I personally remember the transportation strikes in NYC (by observing them on the news). She also peppers her story with the kind of insight you expect out of a novel – from observations of personality to the quirks of anxiety you feel at different stages of your life. It’s a strong rounding of everything I appreciate in Fiction coming to life in a memoir! I found it exhilarating to read because it had a life of it’s own – it felt tangible and fluid. I also felt connected to the author more immediately than I might have as generally unless I know the person I’m reading about previously; as it takes me awhile longer to feel such a strong connection to who they are and what they are about as much as I did in the opening chapters of “The Mother God Made Me To Be”.
My first surprise came when I read the passages about ‘bendable faith’ and how certain compromises could keep a relationship in tact if it was moving towards dissolvement. One thing I kept in check is I didn’t want to judge her motives nor her reasons for the choices she was making towards Gavin (the man she would marry) because of what he had disclosed to her prior to going against her own beliefs. No one knows how they would react until the time comes into their life where they are on the fence of where choices can define them in different ways – to abandon long-held beliefs or to bend to the will of a their partner – those choices can only be made by the individual who is living the life in question. Therefore, despite my surprise in the twist of unexpected choices – I continued to read because there was something about this story that felt like it had larger surprises in store for me. I also quieted the voice in my head that said if someone had confided in me something similar, I would have exited the relationship.
Despite the obstacles facing her, Valentin did one thing which gave her a bit of buoyancy when the waters of life grew especially choppy in her marriage – she started to write letters to God. Secondly, she penned letters to her husband – a misstep I felt on her part was not giving them to him. She bottled her vexations and angst in her marriage – she pooled everything together in the ink she etched into those letters, but the letters were left; abandoned to a drawer never opened. She felt she couldn’t turn to anyone to express her deepest concerns & the murmurs of a woman on the fringes of motherhood – turning inward to reflectively hone in on what most anguished her spirit and heart; herein she found a way to form a bridge from her anxieties to her prayer life. As you read the first note, you can see how she’s struggling to understand the sudden changes in her relationship – of the disconnections which are growing tenfold and of how the man she loved was looking less like the man she first met with each passing day. These are the tender notes of a new mother, whose hoping she can ‘be the mother she’s meant to be’ even if she feels there is a war going on inside her questioning every other aspect of her life.
After the birth of her first son, she started to see a re-emergence of her husband – of the man she knew he was and of the father she had always prayed he would be once fatherhood arrived. In those tender early days and months of Brandon’s life, Valentin felt like she had been especially blessed to have her family life restored – even noting the small gestures of love and kindness her husband would give to Brandon; of making him stop crying or serenading him with music. It wasn’t until her first trip back to Florida to visit her parents where she first noticed there was the ‘distance’ shifting in and out of her marriage again. Of where she noticed small disconnects to where she felt she was either reading into things too heavily or perhaps, her worst fears were always valid about how her husband simply was not ready to be husband and father. As you see her spend time with her parents, you grieve with her they are not locally available to be there for her when she needs them – as New York City and Florida are as far apart as the Earth and Moon when you’re a new Mum.
Her honesty about how in-laws don’t always have a strong connection to your heart until a moment arrives when you all join together for a common cause is a healthy reaction to how sometimes it takes awhile to blend families together. For me, one of my favourite moments is when she shared how Gavin’s family and her celebrated their second Thanksgiving – the one where she did not realise she was pregnant with her second child and where, both cultures came together to share a feast fit for a family who was thrilled to share their traditions. It felt festive and joyous – I wish I had known what kinds of Latin foods were cooked – you could almost smell a hint of them cooking as Valentin’s joy in this holiday was fused so very strongly to this passage!
My second favourite scene was the following Thanksgiving – where Aunt Irma had already passed and her infamous dish of sweet potatoes and walnuts was a noted absence until Valentin was surprised to find the dish was made in her Aunt’s honour! It was here she mentioned about how happy she was to be Puerto Rican and to have the foods of her family with her this particular year, as her heart was still grieving for Irma’s loss. In my heart, I knew the name ‘Irma’ would not bring joyful memories to mind in 2017 – I’m still struggling to understand what happened and why we could not do more to help them.
Similar to Valentin, I have strong memories of the holidays with my family – we, too, had traditional dishes we liked to cook or bake for different holidays. Sadly, at the time whilst I was growing up – I hadn’t developed a taste for candied fruit, so one of my grandfather’s favourite breads to make went unloved by me. It’s a goal of mine to sort out how to create this from scratch to honour his memory in the future but also, to finally ‘taste’ what everyone else in my family already loved! It’s interesting how we bring together our traditions – either through culture, identity or origin, tradition, religion or food – somehow, we all find ways to give definition to who we are whilst we’re celebrating the days during the year which are important to us. Of course, this is not just limited to holidays per se, as even birthdays and anniversaries can have their own ‘spin’ on them in regards to the celebrations! I find it all quite lovely – how we’re all sharing our joys differently but together, we each are making up the beautiful mosaic which unites us all together.
I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was – but I am always surprised by how affronting some people can be when it comes to not understanding how to talk with ‘tact’. Or even, to realise how difficult is to be confronted by someone elses prejudices when you do not have any yourself. Here, I’m referring to when Valentin would visit her parents in Florida – she was given a lot of taxing conversations with people who are clueless with how to relate to a multi-ethnic family! Her children are biracial but instead of accepting them outright, her parents neighbours had to insist they must be ‘adopted’ from ‘elsewhere’ or questioned her parents love for their grandchildren! Imagine? Honestly – the whole thing rubbed me the wrong way and I wasn’t even present when it was happening! Oy!
Valentin’s marriage crashed and burned right before her eyes with little warning. It’s hard to describe how you feel as your reading her story – you’re vexed at her husband for how callus and cold he became to his wife and how distant he was with his own sons yet at the same time – you remember something he said at the beginning of their wedding and relationship – there were two keys of forewarning about how this could go in the future – except watching it as it unfolded, your heart broke for Valentin all the same. No one should have to endure what she endured but the worst of it, I felt was how hard it was to get any response to her questions because she honestly had tried to sort out what was causing the problems even early-on. It was like she was moving forward but he was retreating, one step at a time until his path had erased itself from hers.
This is a defining moment of a woman coming to terms with where she was in her life – how her path was not defined by marriage or by divorce but by what she would choose to encourage out of her creative spirit. She was a writer and musician who loved to sing whilst being a mother completed her in a way she never knew was possible. She had struggles along the way – of where child support payments would have eased her everyday concerns but what she needed more was to recognise the talents and the blessings God was working into her life every step of the way. There is a wonderful passage in the book about how we set our attitude to the ebb and flow of our lives. It was a conversation Valentin had with a Pastor who was one of her truer friends during this period of her life – he talked about attitude through a metaphor of coats – of how we choose to carry what we burden ourselves with by selecting how we want to focus on ‘today’. Do we see the blessings and the joys or do we only feel surrounded by the negativity and the sorrow? Similar to the ‘Seasons’ explained in the Bible about how we transform and transition through different ‘seasons’ of our journey – here, he was attempting to stipulate, if you choose to see life through one pair of eyes, your going to miss the larger point behind the reason your alive. There are moments to grieve and their are moments to wallow – to feel the emotions you have but to find a way to ‘let go’ of them after a point where you need to carry forward to greet your next tomorrow. It was a pivotal turning point for Valentin, but also, so was taking her husband to court for child support.
If anything, this final moment they shared (as for me it felt like the final moment; it wasn’t) showed their true colours to each other – how they each had come through everything and which of the two had found peace out of the chaos. She chose love and motherhood; he chose to exit the life he had created with her by ending his connection to his children and his wife. His journey is lightly touched on but isn’t entirely explained – I think because it isn’t entirely known why he felt he had to leave in such a manner or to cause as much grief as he did. His actions are not entirely known but the after effects of his choices are seen through the hardships and strife his wife went through to become ‘the mother she was meant to be’.
On the writing style of Ms Valentin:
One of my favourite things she does as she’s writing her memoir is she inserts a ‘flashback’ to her childhood or an earlier point in her life which has merit to be juxapositioned against the present. You can see how the threads of her life knit together to form the woman and mother she’s becoming but you also see the history of her life unfold as she’s relaying a small portion of her life which has a greater reach into her memories than only to tell the story at hand. All of us have so much to share about how we become who we are and how what we experience starts to define us in small ways (at first) before we start to see ourselves gathering full strength to live the life we’ve chosen.
She has found a fusion of giving you diary account of her life with an engaging conversation on the side – where you feel nestled into the time-line, even if you weren’t entirely sure what was going to happen next. It felt as if she was able to re-tap into her emotions and her reactions as she was living through the transitions – sensing what needed to be shared or re-said – and assembled in such a way, her life breathes off the page.
What uplifted me most about her conviction and passion for telling her story within this memoir is how no one can fully give up on things resolving until they try everything they can to right the wrongs which alight on their path. Sometimes you can see the things which are going to upset your life before they arrive; other times your simply blindsided – but the truth is always locked in the knowledge with faith and with hope, you can achieve anything. Throughout her recollections and memories of the path she had to walk as a single Mum – you see how she started to put a foundation down for filling her life with purpose and meaning. She chose to hold onto what she felt was her chosen path to walk now – how to create a life outside of a failed marriage and how to create a stable home life for her sons. She followed her heart, she trusted in her faith and in the end, she was surrounded by those who fully supported her every step of the way. She also proves that for each difficult season of our life, we always have just what we need to get through the harder bits which test us the most.
Fly in the Ointment: An Ending which didn’t feel complete
Except to say, for me personally – the ending did not feel like ‘the ending’ needed for this memoir – there wasn’t an Epilogue or Ending Note – nothing was said about how Brandon and Tyler are doing today or even how Ms Valentine transitioned into a full-time writer (it was only hinted about in the narrative). I felt I had taken this journey with her only to feel the story ended unresolved and left ‘open’ to interpretation of how her and the boys moved into their future where they reside now. I realise she might have held back to protect their privacy – but something just felt ‘off’ and disappointing about how this ended in France. I guess, I just wish there had been one final chapter – giving insight into whether or not Ms Valentin moved closer to family or they to her and what happened ‘after’ France? In the end, I was left with more questions than resolutions and I questioned why I went through the journey only to feel like I was left at the airport? You know the feeling – like you’ve missed something keenly important – like your flight?
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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.
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