BORN TO BOUNCE BACK by Frances Teagan is a captivating memoir about a woman’s struggles with her family from the 1960s through the present day. In the memoir, the author describes Instant Pivotal Crises, or IPCs, that she experienced in her life and the lessons she learned from them—namely perseverance. There are seven IPC stories within the book: 1) a first relationship and breakup at fifteen; 2) childbirth in 1961 at eighteen, followed by divorce during her second pregnancy; 3) constantly moving apartments as a single, working mother and facing two more heartbreaks; 4) learning that her father was actually her stepfather when he alarmingly proposes a sexual relationship, then seeking to better understand his mysterious life; 5) a reunion with and subsequent marriage to her first teenage boyfriend, which endured but came with a host of traumatic complications; 6) estrangement from her eldest daughter, and; 7) the death of her husband in 2018. Within each of these seven “stories” are countless details that build up a full, vivid picture of Teagan’s life and all the joys and woes she experienced.
The use of present tense for scenes from the past pulls attention into the moment, making these scenes immersive and engaging. Teagan speaks in a friendly, self-aware voice that is humble and humorous when appropriate. For much of the book, she is a likable individual whose struggles make her a sympathetic narrator. Unfortunately, some empathy for her diminishes in stories #5 and 6 when her eldest daughter extricates her from her life, claiming that Teagan loved her husband more than her after choosing to remain married when the daughters revealed that their step-father touched them on a singular occasion when they were children. While Teagan offers much explanation and statistics on childhood sexual abuse victims and perpetrators, as well as describing the ways in which she attempted to help her daughters through the experience with therapy, some of these explanations feel like excuses for the choice, especially when they carry on for chapters at a time. While the first half of the book is an extraordinary, genuinely enjoyable memoir, this incident is a turning point that changes the tone of the book and casts a shadow on its latter half.
Each of the seven chapters concludes with a life lesson on “bouncing back,” which offers data on some of the topics the author discusses, like depression and alcoholism, and advice on how to overcome these challenges, such as discerning the difference between “reacting” and “responding” to events in order to think through and approach problems more rationally. Some of the life lessons feel unrelated to the scene from Teagan’s life described in the corresponding chapter. Without these brief moral teachings in the first half, the book would have been just as successful as a fascinating memoir, but the lessons are usually insightful, nonetheless.
Frances Teagan’s BORN TO BOUNCE BACK is an encouraging, unique memoir about the stories we tell ourselves while facing up to life’s myriad challenges.
~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader