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Mot: A Memoir (Association of Writers and…
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Mot: A Memoir (Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for…

by Sarah Einstein

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Reading Sarah Einstein's MOT provided a unique window into an unlikely friendship. MOT is a homeless man suffering from schizophrenia and paranoid delusions. But that's not all he is; he's Einstein's friend. Sarah met MOT at the Friendship Room, a homeless shelter in Morgantown, WV where she was employed. MOT befriended Sarah after a near sexual assault, and Sarah found that, despite the struggles MOT endured with "the folks upstairs" (the name he gave to the voices he fought), she enjoyed MOT's company. The friendship was real, even though Sarah found herself at times concerned that the folks upstairs, none of whom were particularly kind, would take over and that MOT might harm her.

After MOT left Morgantown, he and Sarah met up several times, usually at KOA campgrounds across the U.S. These trips all went more or less the same: MOT would arrive first and email Sarah his location. Sarah would drive solo to Amarillo or Oklahoma, or wherever and spend a week with MOT. During this time they would fall into a sort of easy camaraderie that revolved around trips to Wal-Mart or the auto part store. (Mot drove a jalopy that was constantly in need of repair). They would swim in the campground pool, read books out loud to each other in the evenings, and eat Pho from a local restaurant. They would swap stories and sip beer on porch of their camper cabin. It seemed as if time with MOT was an escape of sorts for Sarah whose job at the Friendship Room had begun to feel unsafe and whose home life was rocky.

Sarah's friendship with MOT happened at the same time that her marriage unraveled. Sarah's husband, Scotti, a therapist, had a "MOT" of his own, a patient named Rita, who took up huge swaths of his time both on and off the clock. Sarah paints the details of a dysfunctional marriage in which both partners had difficulty drawing the line between personal and professional relationships. However, while Sarah's friendship with MOT was intermittent, Scotti's relationship with Rita was ongoing. He would spend hours on the phone each day counseling her and frequently miss family holidays in order to walk Rita through her next suicide or runaway threat.

MOT wasn't the emotionally easiest of books to read, but I do think it highlights the humanity of the mentally ill. MOT refused pharmaceutical treatment, citing that the drugs made him lethargic and unable to work. He said, "You can't outsmart tired." MOT would rather wrestle with the folks upstairs than feel physically incapacitated. Sarah accepted MOT's no-meds ultimatum; she seemed equipped to deal with MOT's condition, recognizing it for what it was, an illness of a war veteran likely suffering from PTSD, not the man himself.

Reading this book reminded me of my time in Macon, GA. When my family lit upon the town and attempted a full-on, immersive urban renewal project in the Ft. Hawkins neighborhood, we were not equipped for the task. I think Sarah did a better job being friends with MOT than I did bonding with my neighbors. At least one of them, Derek, was mentally ill. He was squatting in the house across the street from where our family lived. About six months into our move, he began appearing at various time throughout the day to ask for toiletries, a meal, the use of the water hose. Unlike MOT and Sarah, I didn't feel a kinship to Derek. I said yes to his requests, but was relieved when he would leave. I never got much of a chance to get to know Derek; my family moved to New Orleans, and I lost track of Derek. This book reminds me that Derek was doing the best he could in a tough situation and makes me wish I could have made more of an effort to engage him on a human level, not just as the dispenser of soaps and soups. I think that Sarah was able to enjoy a friendship with MOT because she had no illusions that she would change him. It was clear that MOT didn't want to be fixed. He just wanted companionship. Sarah gave him that even if at times society would have deemed her unwise in her solo visits with a delusional man.

I have mixed feelings about Sarah's decision. Part of me wants to yell, "Boundaries!" but more of me applauds her(which I don't think she'd like). I get the sense that this friendship was two-way even if what each person gained from the relationship was different. And the writing is beautiful.

I close with a parting gift to any readers (this means you, Pat).

"There is a fragile beauty to old men, strong arms thinned to gracefulness, straight backs bent to gentle curves. Cockiness softened into dignity" (MOT, p. 74).

How lovely. How astute. How "poetry in prose." I'm inspired. ( )
  Desirichter | May 3, 2016 |
This is a very thought provoking memoir. I would like to thank NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book for my honest review.

Sarah is a 40 yr. old woman, who is trying to make the world a better place. She is the director of a drop in homeless shelter that was geared for the mentally ill and homeless everything was going just fine until the street drugs started getting smuggled in and the clientele were a lot more violent and the drug dealers were hanging around the place to causing all kinds of havoc. The staff had the area's non-emergency police number on speed dial it was getting so bad. They were losing a lot of their staff members because of the situation, which left them very short staffed and Sarah was there alone at night a lot of the time. She had been assaulted a few times and the last time was sexual in nature. Her life was getting threatened on a daily basis and she was just a wreck she hated even getting up in the morning. It was too much for her bare and she decided enough was enough. So she was going to use up her vacation time to find something else then resign.

Her new husband was not supportive of her at all. He was really quite selfish towards Sarah. He seemed to feel quite superior over her which he really wasn't. He had no empathy towards the situation she was dealing with a work. He had the gall to let her know that she just wasn't strong enough to handle the job and the responsibilities of being the director.

He was gone most of the time taking care of a very disturbed female that demanded most of his time. That alone was ripping their marriage apart, whenever the phone rang Sarah cringed because if she answered she was going to get cussed out or the female was going into a psychotic rant. He also was no help around the house and on top of the hard job she had during the day and night. When she got home she had to listen to him complain about her failures regarding keeping the house.

One day she received an email from her old friend, Mot aka Thomas, that she had met while working at the shelter. He was a veteran who was homeless and was suffering from some mental health issues, they were really were really quite interesting at that. Mot had been homeless for quite some time and he didn't want to live inside and have a normal life. He loved his life as a drifter you might say. He was quite accomplished at getting things done for himself as long as he was near a Walmart and a Library he was good to go.

He had asked her to meet him in Texas to catch up, and she was in such a state she thought why not. So she drove from West Virginia to Texas where she was to meet Mot in a Walmart parking lot. She had rented a cabin for a week for them to stay in, since at this time Mot was living in a beat up old wreck.

They share a very interesting and complex relationship, I would say she understands his mental illness but I'm not sure that's it at all. They have a mutual respect for one another and are just good friends. She has her times of frustrations with him as he does with her but they always come back around.

Sarah thinks that he would be much better if he came back home to West Virginia but he really doesn't want to go back at all, but does due to circumstances beyond his control.

The book is really good and you can see that there are some very good people out there who really care and want to help the disenfranchised almost to point of sacrificing their own families and happiness. I really admire Sarah for all she went through to help others in need and the sacrifices that she made in doing so. She is a true hero, we need many more like her. This book gives you an insight into what really happens to our mentally ill. It's so sad to think of our veterans living this way, where they aren't respected by the medical professionals even at some of the VA Hospitals. The patients have long waits to see the right medical professionals who will hopefully listen to them enough to give them the right diagnosis and medications to help them become the person they are meant to be. All mentally ill people who are living in homeless shelters need to get the right medical attention. They are not criminals, they just need help that we could provide them. True, I understand that some do not want to take their medications. But if they can control methadone they could do something like that for the mentally ill who are on the street who need their medications and are willing to take them. They want to live a productive life but they have no access to the medications to help them do that.

Like I said this is a well written book that is very thought provoking. After you finish reading this wonderful memoir you just keep thinking of these people and how can you help them. ( )
  sj1335 | Jul 14, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0820348201, Hardcover)

At forty, Sarah Einstein is forced to face her own shortcomings. In the wake of an attempted sexual assault, she must come to terms with the facts that she is not tough enough for her job managing a local drop-in center for adults with mental illness and that her new marriage is already faltering. Just as she reaches her breaking point, she meets Mot, a homeless veteran who lives a life dictated by frightening delusion. She is drawn to the brilliant ways he has found to lead his own difficult life; traveling to Romania to get his teeth fixed because the United States doesn’t offer dental care to the indigent, teaching himself to use computers in public libraries, and even taking university classes while living out of doors.

Mot: A Memoir is the story of their unlikely friendship and explores what we can, and cannot, do for a person we love. In unsparing prose and with a sharp eye for detail, Einstein brings the reader into the world of Mot’s delusions and illuminates a life that would otherwise be hidden from us.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 07 Jul 2015 06:17:16 -0400)

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