Souls Take Flight (2020)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (1/2021)
“Listen Mama” by M.S.P. Williams, is a moving memoir about not giving up on love. Comprised of touching letters, this book chronicles the journey of a son’s yearning for his mentally ill mother to love him, and encounters barriers that seem impenetrable. These personal letters offer slice-of-life, intimate insight into the lives of real people, and will leave you enlightened and inspired.
This often-heartbreaking memoir is emotional, honest, and all-too true for so many people searching for connection to a mother, father, family, or just belonging. The letters are poignant, and as you read, you will immediately be swept into the mindset of this man, and travel his journey with him, and, as him. The writing is touching and heartfelt, profound in its simplicity, and will connect with reading audiences everywhere. The themes of separation, poverty, loneliness, broken families, and a host of other life experiences, make this a timely and timeless story–and since the narrative is constructed of letters–makes them even more real to the reader.
Manny is a son trying to keep ties with his mother, who is in a psychiatric hospital. That would be a life hurdle in itself, but Manny has hope beyond hope, and shows how faith, willpower, and perseverance can lead to a fulfillment of wishes and dreams. He wishes the best for his mother, and longs for things to be the way they were before. He wants her to be happy and whole, but he’s lost so much. Redemption seems impossible, but Manny, despite having a disfigurement and being born into disadvantages, has to grow up too soon. Seeking compassion and understanding, he had to deal with his mother’s frightening behavior, brought on by her mental illness.
Eventually, he cares for her, and his four younger siblings–a challenging labor of love. The way he tries to hold everything together is inspiring. But even though the book has heartbreak, it has happiness and humor. YA readers will love this. You’ll get to know a mother through her son’s eyes and heart and feel the passage of time through the letters as he references historical and pop culture milestones. The author shows a good balance of ups and downs over the twenty-years, and “Listen Mama” is a gem of a book that will live in the heart and mind for years to come.