February is the perfect month to make a gesture of love. Get showy even! Flowers, Valentine cards, chocolate, and in my case home-made sugar cookies baked from my mother’s recipe—hand-written on one of those old index cards, with frayed edges and sparse instructions. It is so well-used that splotches of spilled vanilla and egg yolk decorate it. The ink is fading to the point that I’ve had to type and print it—but, I don’t have the HEART to toss it. It is love personified in my book. Recently, I was asked for the recipe by a niece and while I sent her my typed version, I couldn’t resist sending her a copy of the original. Love can be passed on pretty easily if we take the time to do it.
Last week I chatted about my book Finding Grace at two small town libraries in Minnesota. For those of you who have read the book, you will not be at all surprised that Caroline, the mother in the book, was the topic of an animated discussion about motherhood. A couple of readers shared their opinion about how terrible Caroline was, and others defended her as wronged—she was just being true to herself in following her muse, regardless of the biology that changed her course.
I wrote Caroline as a unique, bold character who lacked even a hint of self-awareness; a character who defied convention, and was extremely difficult to categorize, a character who when displayed on the page, would be untraditional at best and unreliable at worst.
Finding Grace is the story of this character’s effect on others.
Some would categorize Caroline as a full-out narcissist. I resisted an actual diagnosis for Caroline, as intuition guides me to believe there are many people among us who display narcissistic tendencies. The opposite is also true— in my experience there are people who get into trouble when they are so selfless that they give up their own identity and get lost in the journey to juggle everything and never put themselves first, which can also lead to emotional distress.
After Finding Grace was written, I discovered an author and psychologist who wrote about narcissism and was struck by her work, and relieved to find my fictional account was not misleading. When I reached out to Karyl McBride, she called me to offer a blurb for Finding Grace, which I treasure:
“When you start to read Finding Grace, be prepared for a gripping and heart-wrenching story about a daughter raised by a narcissistic mother and enabling father. Cooper pulls together the psychological dynamics that hit the nail on the head, page by page, and reveals the intense trauma and effects of narcissistic parenting. I couldn’t stop turning those pages. Intense and brilliant.” Karyl McBride, PHD, psychotherapist and author of Will I ever Be good enough? and Will I Ever Be Free of You?
Karyl has a new book coming out this week Will the Drama Ever End? Untangling and Healing from the Harmful effects of Parental Narcissism. I have read an advance reader’s copy and recommend it to those who recognize the signs of narcissistic abuse and are interested in a comprehensive and actionable guide to understanding and healing from that abuse. You can learn more about Karyl at her website— https://willieverbegoodenough.com/
In the meantime, share the love. Remember small gestures are treasured more than we realize.
Happy Valentine’s Day!