Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss
by Mary Jo Doig



She Writes Press, 2018. ISBN 978-1-631-52449-3.
Reviewed by Jazz Jaeschke
Posted on 08/24/2018
Review of the Month, September 2018

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: American Women in the Cultural/Historical Context; Nonfiction: Relationships

Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss is a layering of life stories and reflections that are both sobering and uplifting.

One layer recounts author Mary Jo Doig's life from birth forward, stories of people and events that draw the reader into each episode as though it occurred yesterday. Childhood and young adult stories are sprinkled with maturity's reflective wisdom. This layer reads like a suspense mystery, horror upon horror. The collective tragedies and disruptions is not an easy read, but the what-next suspense makes setting the book aside difficult. Doig grows up accepting labels repeatedly thrown at her, including stupid, bad, emotionally immature. She keeps trying to be what others want, to be accepted. She keeps running into obstacles.

Another layer develops as the adult author uncovers who she is and why. Flashbacks stemming from family incidents and current events on a broader level trigger inner glimpses. Laced into this layer are various books that provided a mirror for the author's true self, long hidden from view by an innate protective shield of dissociation. She grows as one by one she chooses to accept formerly blocked ugly truths. This growth is irreversible, progressive changes triggering further trauma, extending her coping to include professional help.

These layers are stitched together with periodic references to a quilt the author embellishes with fabric heart-shaped leaves; each signifies a person or place essential to her continued becoming. This quilt is a tactile symbol of life patches drawn from evolving recall and journals diligently kept through the years.

My recommendation? Read this book. For understanding family impact. For encouragement to uncover or acknowledge experiences that shaped you. For impetus to consider how you shape others through action and attitude. For the warmth and respect you will feel for the author.

Read an excerpt from this book.


Mary Jo Doig is a life writer, sharing both past and current experiences through various publications and her blog. Patchwork is her first full book. Her life and her stories are entwined with appreciation of natural settings, treasured as well as measured relationships, her love for working with textiles, and support of other writers. She lives in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.

(See another review of this book, here)

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