I have finished the most delicious plate of reading I have had in a very long time. Maggie Smith is a poet, an award-winning poet with six books in her repertoire. Her memoir, You Could Make This Place Beautiful (New York: One Signal Publishers (ISP), an Imprint of Simon& Schuster, 2023. (Parnassus Books in Nashville chose the book as their First Edition Book of the Month for April).
It’s very difficult to be open to your own vulnerability in a memoir as I have learned in my own memoir. Yet the genre demands that you be truthful or there is no purpose. I have not been through a divorce, but my children have. And I have understood how separation tears at the heart of childhood even as the heart journeys into adult life.
I cried with Maggie Smith’s pain, absorbed her anger at her husband’s betrayal and his willingness to move 500 miles from their two children. I struggled with her blindness in the years of a “perfect” marriage”. The pages are rarely filled as one expects in a memoir, but that is the poet in Smith. There are sentences and paragraphs that absorb a page at a time, yet each page carried her story with brilliant clarity.
I believe Smith’s book will speak to the hearts of children of divorce as well as parents who have endured their own divorce pain. Both Maggie and her husband surround their children with love. It is love in whatever form life gives us, that makes us whole.
The book was a gift from my daughter, Gina, for my birthday. Gina is my husband’s daughter. She was only 13 when I entered the family. There are four other books in this First-Edition gift, but this book is one I will be forever grateful to Gina for introducing to me.
I have been fortunate to have my husband’s children in my life for the last 48 years. I want to offer Smith hope. Our children,(yes they are mine as well as their Dad’s) have snuggled in my heart. I feel their beat. Was it always easy and joyful? No, as it is for every family. But being present for each other in struggles and celebrations brings our family together. We have all emerged with a bond that we cherish.
You Could Make This Place Beautiful will make you cry, laugh, tear at your heart, and give you the courage to take whatever each day hands you and makes your place beautiful.
Aggie Jordan is the author of A Woman’s Voice Should Be Heard: My Journey From The Convent To The Battle For Women’s Equality (Iowa: Legacy Book Press, November 2022)