Posted in books

Realizing I need to let go + “The Marriage of Opposites” by Alice Hoffman

Being a mother is hard work. Whether you’re a working mom, or a stay at home mom (which is also a lot of work), or a mother that works from home (like me)–it’s all hard work.

But the hardest work of all is letting your children go.

Witness my issues with my younger daughter, Katy. If you don’t know, Katy has IMG_20150529_130116Down syndrome, so she’s been slower to mature and grow up. Which is fine, because she is my youngest (and we aren’t having any more — promise). I mean, there are times I want her to grow a bit faster, but for the most part I like that it takes her longer to get to the next step, independence-wise.

I have known this about myself, that I’m kind of hanging onto to my ‘baby,’ and I know she likes it, even as she seeks and finds more independence in certain ways. But I do kind of enable her, because she’s my baby.

In the last couple of months I’ve realized about all this about me, or I’ve let the realization seep from my sub conscious into my consciousness. I started to wonder about all the little things I do for her at home, things that I know she does on her own, away from me, at school or camp or wherever.

Things like getting dressed or washing her hands. She has to do these at school (well, not get dressed, but pull her pants up after the bathroom). Like filling up a water bottle. Cleaning up after herself and putting things away properly. All these things I do for her or with her, standing over her and making sure it’s done right.

When I started to think about her at school (yes, I stop by school, but I’m not  there all day everyday), I realized that there is no way they are doing these things for her. They can’t. I’ve pushed for her to have as much independence as possible at school (funny when you think of me at home), and they have kids who need a little more help than Katy. I know she pulls up her own pants, puts things away, gets her own lunch out of her lunchbox (that I made) and eats it all just fine.


So there is a part of me that realizes I need to let go a bit. To let her grow up, to make her do these things on her own. And I am getting better. But it’s hard. She’s my baby. My last baby. And she was little for so long. And it’s taken her so long to get where she is, each step taking longer than a ‘typical’ child, giving me too much time to baby her.

So my number one back to school resolution is to let her do it herself at home. To let her get her own clothes, without my help. To let her get her own toothbrush ready (even if it means a little more clean up for me). To make her help me clean up a bit.

I need to stop babying her so much, to let her grow a bit, to let her become all that she can be. Not only at school, but at home as well.

I realize now that it’s time for me to let go. Just a little.

Okay, onto Alice Hoffman’s The Marriage of Opposites.

The story of the woman who gave birth to the father of Impressionism, The Marriage of Opposites is a tale of passion and intensity brought to life on the beautiful island of St. Thomas in the early 1800’s.

The Premise

Rachel Pomie is a strong, willful child, the apple of her father’s eye and her mother’s cross to bear. The daughter of Jews exiled from Europe to the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, Rachel dreams of Paris and longs to be allowed to go into business with her father. Her mother attempts to rein her in, and the two butt heads. A lot.

Growing up in a wild land, Rachel’s best friend in the daughter of their housekeeper. Rachel grows up wishing for more, but it married to a much older man in order to save her father’s business. Taking on his children and knowing of his undying love for his first wife, Rachel makes a life for him nonetheless.

When he dies, his nephew Frédéric Pizarro  is sent to St. Thomas from Paris to take over the business, and the two fall in love instantly. We watch the two fight convention and Jewish law to live a life of love.

Although most of the book is told in the third person, halfway through it switches to the first person perspective of Jacobo, also known as Camille.  When his parents were ostracized from the Jewish community in St. Thomas, Jacobo and is brother were sent to the local charity school for the native children. As Jacobo grows into Rachel’s son, he is sent to Paris to live with relatives, and his artist talent grows.

This son grows up to be Camille Pissarro, the father of impressionism.

Melding Rachel’s story with Camille’s, and adding in other stories of family and friends, the story of St. Thomas and its Jewish community is told.

My Thoughts

This book was enthralling and really interesting when Hoffman was telling Rachel’s story. But when the perspective’s switched, the story lost some of its fire and passion.

I know that Camille Pissarro is a wonderful artist, but Rachel’s story is the best part of this book and is the tale that needed to be told. I think this book would have been better without the first person perspective. It flattened the whole story.

When the perspective switches back to third person, the story gets some of its fierceness back, but not all. And not enough.

I’m going to give this one 3 stars. The star of the book isn’t Pissarro, but his mother and St. Thomas. Keep the spotlight where it belongs.



I love to read; writing is my outlet. My blog is my way to combine the two, with a some life stories thrown in for good measure.

2 thoughts on “Realizing I need to let go + “The Marriage of Opposites” by Alice Hoffman

  1. I think that parents do feel a sense of attachment to their children. While they want their kids to gain independence, it is also difficult for them to know that they are not ‘needed’ as much as before.

    Liked by 1 person

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