In The Burning Light of Two Stars, I tell the story of my embattled relationship with my mother, our determination to love one another, and the dramatic and surprising collision course we ended up on at the end of her life. For the millions of readers of my first book, The Courage to Heal, the new book serves as both prequel and sequel, revealing in intimate, page turning detail how I reconciled with the mother who betrayed me, and came to care for her at the end of her life.
This story was burning inside me and had to come out. I tried to walk away from it multiple times and it always insisted on being told. We all have core stories that live inside us; this is one of mine. It explores, from a deeply personal perspective, themes I’ve explored in my earlier non-fiction: the long-term impact of sexual abuse, healing from trauma, the mother-daughter knot, how to move from estrangement to reconciliation. As author and protagonist, I was searching for the answers to the following questions:
- Is it possible to caretake a parent who has betrayed you in the past?
- Is it possible to open a heart that’s learned it’s safer and easier to stay closed?
- What does healing from trauma look over the course of a lifetime? How healed do we actually get to be?
Although this is the story of one mother and daughter, one relationship that went from an impossible estrangement to a surprising state of reconciliation, I believed it would resonate with anyone who struggles with someone they wish they could make peace with. And so, I persisted.
It took ten years to finish for a multiplicity of reasons. I didn’t know how to write it or what form it should take. In my first draft, I composed it as a play. That was a complete and utter flop—my “play” had no dramatic tension. I gave up and despaired. I set the story down for a long time, but it still had me in its grasp. The second iteration was an epistolary memoir. But my beta readers reported that they felt left out of a private conversation between me and my mother. I composted that version and walked away again. Finally, I took on the challenge of writing the book as straight memoir. Despite teaching writing for 20 years, I had to level up my skills to do so. I knew how to create non-fiction books that teach and inspire but crafting a story that kept people turning pages required a whole new skill set. It took years and many false starts to find the story arc, to write across time, to learn to build momentum and create complex, flawed, and human characters—most challenging in my depiction of myself. It was thrilling to learn so much about the craft of writing this late in my career.
Praise for The Burning Light of Two Stars:
“Caregiving an elderly parent, especially against the backdrop of a difficult shared past, can be a bruising spiritual ordeal. We who must travel this territory don’t need any more sentimental narratives about it. What we do need is the healing medicine of truth-telling, and Laura Davis brilliantly and generously gives it to us. I literally could not put this book down.”
–Katy Butler, bestselling author of Knocking on Heaven’s Door and The Art of Dying Well
“This chronicle of estrangement and reconciliation of a daughter’s slow loss of her mother to dementia and death, is really a testament to living and forgiveness. Overcoming a past fraught with misunderstandings and hostilities takes hard work—hard emotional and soul work. Davis masterfully documents this journey while giving the reader a visceral sense of the brevity of time we have in which to let compassion take root. This is a stunning book that shows how, once begun, that rootedness can be nurtured, deepened, and sustained.”
–Sue William Silverman, author, How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences
“This was one of the bravest books I have ever read. Laura Davis brings you directly into the heart of her crucible, again and again with power and vulnerability and a tenderness that is utterly disarming. I simply could not stop reading and found that my heart kept opening, breaking, and then piecing itself back together. This book is pure revelation.”
–Jill Bacharach, MA, MSW, Activist, Writer
In this presentation, you’ll learn:
- How our relationship to our core stories evolves and changes over our life cycle
- How to deal with the uncomfortable realization that your long-held, oft-repeated stories about your life are just that: stories—rather than “The Truth.”
- How to move from flat black and white depictions of the “hero and the villain” to complex, multifaceted characters on the page
- About the ethics and cost of writing about family
- How to find both compassion and courage in dealing with family members who may hate what you have written
Laura Davis is the author of The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story, the story of her loving yet tumultuous relationship with her mother, and six other non-fiction books, including The Courage to Heal, I Thought We‘d Never Speak Again, and Becoming the Parent You Want to Be. Her groundbreaking books have been translated into 11 languages and sold two million copies. In addition to writing books that inspire and change people’s lives, the work of Laura’s heart is to teach. For more than twenty years, she’s helped people find their voices, tell their stories, and hone their craft. Laura loves creating supportive, intimate writing communities online, in person, and internationally. You can learn about Laura’s classes and workshops, read the first five chapters of her new memoir, and receive a free ebook: Writing Through Courage: A 30-Day Practice at www.lauradavis.net.