Collect Call to My Mother: Essays on Love, Grief, and Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

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Powerfully insightful, deeply emotional, and above all else, brutally honest, Lori Horvitz’s Collect Call to My Mother is a collection of thirty-five deeply personal essays chronicling formative events, moments, and people from her life. The meditative tone of the collection is established from the outset when the first and title essay, “Collect Call to My Mother,” describes how Horvitz went on a solo backpacking trip around Europe a year after graduating. Feeling somewhat nostalgic for home and encouraged by the example of a fellow American she met on a train to Oslo, she placed a collect call to her parents. Her mother answered the telephone, but when the operator asked if she would accept a collect call from Horvitz, her mother said “No.”

It was a startling moment that left Horvitz stunned, even though she knew her mother to be both emotionally distant and a skinflint. Unsurprisingly, the incident had a profound impact and caused her to reflect, both at the time and then again later while writing the essay, on her relationship with her parents and the ripple effect that it had throughout her life. For instance, after her mother rejected her call, Horvitz telephoned an on-again-off-again boyfriend who she was definitely better off without, but he accepted the collect call, which prompted Horvitz to agree to move to Minneapolis with him when she should really have taken advantage of the distance between them and never seen him again.

Her mother casts a long shadow, not least because she died young, before they had the chance to patch up their relationship and relate to one another as independent adults, and Horvitz’s complicated familial relationships are reflected in her equally complicated romantic relationships. While the collected essays feature a number of relationships with men, Horvitz knew from a young age that she was gay, although her difficulty in coming to terms with both her sexuality and her whole self resulted in her entering into a number of toxic relationships before finally finding acceptance and love.

In “A Girl’s Guide to Hot Mess Yoga” Horvitz relates her all-encompassing and intense romance with a hedonistic single mother who was reluctant to embrace monogamy, whereas in “The Gift Giver” she explains the trouble she had breaking away from a woman whose love language was forcefully giving gifts. For a time, her struggle with coming out and overcoming deep-seated self-hatred meant that other people’s happiness was almost anathema to her, as in “Daytona Beach, 1950” when Horvitz comments on how, for a long time, she couldn’t acknowledge the fact that a favorite aunt may have been a blissfully happy lesbian.

The essays in Collect Call to My Mother flit backwards and forwards through time, as real and elusive as the recollections that they relate. As Horvitz works through her life, her loves, and her essays, she relates memories tinged with happiness and grief, humor and pathos. In doing so, she explores the highs and lows of life, the inevitability of death, the complications and simplicity of romance, and the overwhelming drive to find authenticity in relationships.

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Author Lori Horvitz
Star Count 4.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 230 pages
Publisher New Meridian Arts
Publish Date 15-Feb-2023
ISBN 9798985965926 Buy this Book
Issue January 2023
Category Biographies & Memoirs