Posted by on in Magnolia City

Madre, dearest

When I was undergoing three years of deep, intensive psychotherapy with a gifted psychiatrist in Toronto, Dr. Monte Bail, one of the books he gave me to read was Alice Miller's best seller, The Drama of the Gifted Child. This book made me aware of the prevalence of narcissistic disorders in our society, and the damage done to children by these kinds of self-centered mothers.
    

As I worked on developing my historical novel, Magnolia City, I realized that I wanted to create a portrait of such a mother in Nella Ardra Allen, the matriarch of the Allen clan, descendants of the founders of the city of Houston. She raises her daughter Hetty, the protagonist of the novel, as the perfect Houston socialite, a Southern gentlewoman being groomed to marry the scion of the Splendora oil fortune, Lamar Rusk. Hetty takes on the roles that have unconsciously been assigned to her: guardian of her younger sister, savior of the family's honor and fortune. Nella’s narcissistic equilibrium depends upon her daughter behaving in a certain way. But when Hetty meets an alluring stranger and rebels against her mother’s wishes, she experiences a devastating abandonment that leaves her feeling hollow and confused.
    

As the story unwinds, we learn the back story of how Nella became so hardened and why Hetty must then set out on her own journey of self discovery. Her quest is not, as some readers have mistakenly judged, one of greed but one of need — the need to regain the love that a narcissistic mother doesn’t know how to give.

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