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Now Beacon, Now Sea: A Son's Memoir

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A wrenching debut memoir of familial grief by a National Book Award finalist--and a defining account of what it means to love and lose a difficult parent. When Christopher Sorrentino's mother died in 2017, it marked the end of a journey that had begun eighty years earlier in the South Bronx. Victoria's life took her to the heart of New York's vibrant mid-century downtown ar A wrenching debut memoir of familial grief by a National Book Award finalist--and a defining account of what it means to love and lose a difficult parent. When Christopher Sorrentino's mother died in 2017, it marked the end of a journey that had begun eighty years earlier in the South Bronx. Victoria's life took her to the heart of New York's vibrant mid-century downtown artistic scene, to the sedate campus of Stanford, and finally back to Brooklyn--a journey witnessed by a son who watched, helpless, as she grew more and more isolated, distancing herself from everyone and everything she'd ever loved. In examining the mystery of his mother's life, from her dysfunctional marriage to his heedless father, the writer Gilbert Sorrentino, to her ultimate withdrawal from the world, Christopher excavates his own memories and family folklore in an effort to discover her dreams, understand her disappointments, and peel back the ways in which she seemed forever trapped between two identities: the Puerto Rican girl identified on her birth certificate as Black, and the white woman she had seemingly decided to become. Meanwhile Christopher experiences his own transformation, emerging from under his father's shadow and his mother's thumb to establish his identity as a writer and individual--one who would soon make his own missteps and mistakes. Unfolding against the captivating backdrop of a vanished New York, a city of cheap bohemian enclaves and a thriving avant-garde--a dangerous, decaying, but liberated and potentially liberating place--Now Beacon, Now Sea is a matchless portrait of the beautiful, painful messiness of life, and the transformative power of even conflicted grief.


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A wrenching debut memoir of familial grief by a National Book Award finalist--and a defining account of what it means to love and lose a difficult parent. When Christopher Sorrentino's mother died in 2017, it marked the end of a journey that had begun eighty years earlier in the South Bronx. Victoria's life took her to the heart of New York's vibrant mid-century downtown ar A wrenching debut memoir of familial grief by a National Book Award finalist--and a defining account of what it means to love and lose a difficult parent. When Christopher Sorrentino's mother died in 2017, it marked the end of a journey that had begun eighty years earlier in the South Bronx. Victoria's life took her to the heart of New York's vibrant mid-century downtown artistic scene, to the sedate campus of Stanford, and finally back to Brooklyn--a journey witnessed by a son who watched, helpless, as she grew more and more isolated, distancing herself from everyone and everything she'd ever loved. In examining the mystery of his mother's life, from her dysfunctional marriage to his heedless father, the writer Gilbert Sorrentino, to her ultimate withdrawal from the world, Christopher excavates his own memories and family folklore in an effort to discover her dreams, understand her disappointments, and peel back the ways in which she seemed forever trapped between two identities: the Puerto Rican girl identified on her birth certificate as Black, and the white woman she had seemingly decided to become. Meanwhile Christopher experiences his own transformation, emerging from under his father's shadow and his mother's thumb to establish his identity as a writer and individual--one who would soon make his own missteps and mistakes. Unfolding against the captivating backdrop of a vanished New York, a city of cheap bohemian enclaves and a thriving avant-garde--a dangerous, decaying, but liberated and potentially liberating place--Now Beacon, Now Sea is a matchless portrait of the beautiful, painful messiness of life, and the transformative power of even conflicted grief.

30 review for Now Beacon, Now Sea: A Son's Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bibliophile

    I liked the book, but for the dark subject and the difficulty in reading it, I wont say I loved it. Hence the 3 stars and not 4. Memoirs are fun to read and give a glimpse into someone else's life, but it can be troubling when the sentences are so contrived that the reading doesnt flow. Overall it'll be a better read who's been in that exact same situations, and may not mind the confusing writing at times. I liked the book, but for the dark subject and the difficulty in reading it, I wont say I loved it. Hence the 3 stars and not 4. Memoirs are fun to read and give a glimpse into someone else's life, but it can be troubling when the sentences are so contrived that the reading doesnt flow. Overall it'll be a better read who's been in that exact same situations, and may not mind the confusing writing at times.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

    amazing

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    Now Beacon, Now Sea is a deeply personal and richly nuanced memoir exploring dysfunction in parenthood and marriage through the lens of a son reflecting on his late parents. Touching on themes of race, identity, and class, Sorrentino paints a vivid portrait of his mother, and in doing so refuses to gloss over her imperfections. While the writing at times felt overwrought, Sorrentino is still deeply successful in creating an analysis that interrogates familial grief and loving a flawed parent, an Now Beacon, Now Sea is a deeply personal and richly nuanced memoir exploring dysfunction in parenthood and marriage through the lens of a son reflecting on his late parents. Touching on themes of race, identity, and class, Sorrentino paints a vivid portrait of his mother, and in doing so refuses to gloss over her imperfections. While the writing at times felt overwrought, Sorrentino is still deeply successful in creating an analysis that interrogates familial grief and loving a flawed parent, and I am grateful to have read his reflections. Thank you to the publisher, Catapult, for the gifted copy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Dekker

    Review up on my reading vlog: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3dWRk-0... Review up on my reading vlog: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3dWRk-0...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kim Bakos

    There were many parts of this book that I could relate to - I also have a mother whose life revolves around illness, both real and imagined. She also uses her illness to get out of that which she doesn't want to do, but is fine for those things she really wants to do, causing hurt feelings when you realize you weren't a priority. Perhaps that is why I had a hard time really liking the book. I also found the book to be filled with lots of big words that added nothing to the writing other than to m There were many parts of this book that I could relate to - I also have a mother whose life revolves around illness, both real and imagined. She also uses her illness to get out of that which she doesn't want to do, but is fine for those things she really wants to do, causing hurt feelings when you realize you weren't a priority. Perhaps that is why I had a hard time really liking the book. I also found the book to be filled with lots of big words that added nothing to the writing other than to make it harder to read. I'll never understand why some authors choose to use the biggest, most obscure word they can when a more common one would do just as well and not alienate the less vocab-savvy reader.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Colette Russen

    Whew. Hard to read, because of the subject and the vitriol and bile and other bitter liquids with which he writes about his mother. Not because mothers should be revered, but because I, too had a difficult mother. In the beginning I felt he was being unfair to her, whiny, complaining (and he was no gem as a son either, when young)—then I realized I was reacting to the things I don’t like about myself that I saw reflected in him. And, felt very sorry for her, because she obviously wasn’t a happy Whew. Hard to read, because of the subject and the vitriol and bile and other bitter liquids with which he writes about his mother. Not because mothers should be revered, but because I, too had a difficult mother. In the beginning I felt he was being unfair to her, whiny, complaining (and he was no gem as a son either, when young)—then I realized I was reacting to the things I don’t like about myself that I saw reflected in him. And, felt very sorry for her, because she obviously wasn’t a happy person—at least as seen from her perspective. I may have to read it again soon.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    A stirring memoir This memoir captures a son's complicated journey toward building a relationship with his complex and demanding mother. The writers' descriptions of New York City during the 1960s are raw and real. A stirring memoir This memoir captures a son's complicated journey toward building a relationship with his complex and demanding mother. The writers' descriptions of New York City during the 1960s are raw and real.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    One of the better memoirs I've read this year. One of the better memoirs I've read this year.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Susan Walker

    Moving book about growing up with a famous father and a mothr with mental health issues. Beautifully written.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anne Morris

  11. 5 out of 5

    J-Reads

  12. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

  13. 4 out of 5

    CarrieAnn

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike Van Campen

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ellen

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emalee Welsh

  18. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

  19. 4 out of 5

    Angela Tiene

  20. 4 out of 5

    MK Hayward

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Curt

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alex Abramovich

  25. 4 out of 5

    Debra Dodd

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nelly Steele

  27. 4 out of 5

    Susan Hilton

  28. 4 out of 5

    Vapafe

  29. 4 out of 5

    robert a. maness

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

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