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The Other Mother: A Rememoir by Teresa Bruce
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The Other Mother: A Rememoir

by Teresa Bruce

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Teresa Bruce's THE OTHER MOTHER is called "a rememoir." Perhaps this slightly off-kilter term is a hint - or a warning? - that what follows is not a traditional memoir. It is in fact a combination memoir/biography - selected pieces of Bruce's own life blended into that of her subject, dancer-choreographer Byrne Miller, who is that "other mother" of the title. This kind of book is certainly not unique, and Bruce is a good writer. But attempting to link up two real-life stories in a single narrative while doing justice to both lives is never a simple hat trick, and consequently there is, I think, a certain unevenness in the final product.

Bruce was a young broadcast journalist, originally from Oregon, working her first job at a small public TV station in Beaufort, South Carolina, when she met Byrne Miller in 1991. Miller, then in her 80s, headed her own dance company, and was something of a local celebrity. Miller's husband of sixty years, Duncan, was suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. An immediate bond formed between the young reporter and the aging dancer. Bruce had studied ballet and rhythmic gymnastics as a girl, until a serious back injury had permanently sidelined her from those endeavors. So that connection of athleticism and the arts was the initial catalyst to a friendship, one which deepened over time, as Miller offered support and advice to Bruce, who was at the time enmeshed in an abusive common-law marriage to Sonny, an explosively violent surfer she'd met in Mexico.

Bruce gives plenty of ink to the long, perfect, fairy tale union of the Millers, but there are gray areas that only become clear as she gradually reveals more about their "open marriage," a schizophrenic daughter, and the so-called "brilliance" of Duncan's writing. You know the expression about when something seems too good to be true, it probably isn't? Well ditto for the Miller marriage. In fact, when I finally learned the truth about Duncan and his writing (very late in the book), I began to wonder if his brilliant career as an ad man might also have been an invention. There seems to be, in fact, a kind of calculated deception in the way Bruce spins out the Millers' tale, finally revealing important truths only in the book's final pages and the Afterword, perhaps to preserve that 'fairy tale' aspect of the marriage.

As for Bruce's own story, it remains very patchy, and I wondered if she were saving the best parts for another memoir which is currently in the works.

I know little about dance as an art or a discipline, and there is plenty on that subject here, as well as name-dropping of a number of famous or semi-famous dancers. Unfortunately I found none of this particularly interesting.

Bottom line: this is very much a book for women. It is all about the support women in crisis are able to offer each other. In this case, Teresa Bruce needed that "Other Mother" that Byrne Miller provided. Indeed, she was only one of several "daughters" that Miller had collected over the years. As I've already noted, Bruce is a good writer, a more than capable wordsmith. Women, especially those who have experienced difficult or abusive relationships, will relate to the stories here - both Teresa Bruce's and Byrne Miller's. It might also work well as suggested reading for Women's Studies. ( )
  TimBazzett | Jul 18, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0984107398, Hardcover)

THE OTHER MOTHER is a true story of a TV reporter and the deep bond she forges with a woman four times her age, a bond that changes her life... Byrne and Duncan Miller do not blend into the beautiful background that is Beaufort, South Carolina. She is an 82-year-old modern dance pioneer from Manhattan who started out on the burlesque stage during the Great Depression. He is a pipe-smoking, frustrated novelist and one of the original Mad Men of Madison Avenue. Teresa Bruce stumbles onto the story of their love and quickly becomes one of Byrne's "collected daughters." Byrne and Teresa's friendship is a dance between love and madness, loyalty and truth, and speaks to anyone who has ever needed and cherished the love of an "Other Mother."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:17 -0400)

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