ABOUT THE BOOK

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What happens when a 40-something feminist sociologist who studies gender and sexuality learns that her mother, a passive aggressive and needy woman who hasn’t had a lover in decades, has started seeing men who want to be bound, whipped, and sexually dominated? What happens when that mother, shortly after diving into her newly discovered sexuality, develops one cancer that forces her to accept radical changes to her body and then another that forces her, and everyone around her, to confront her mortality? How do their ideas about themselves and each other change as they confront aging, illness, sexuality, and the inevitability of death? Read more…

EXCERPT: CHAPTER ONE

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Not my cross to bear, I think with a wry smile as I stare into my mother’s small craft room at the object that dominates the cluttered space. Perhaps seven feet tall, it is shaped like an enormous black letter X standing on a shallow base, canted backward at a slight angle. If it were a person, it would be standing tall with feet planted wide and arms flung out, its face raised to the sky, exultant, powerful. This is not the image that would occur to most people who are familiar with such equipment, I’m sure. This is a St. Andrew’s Cross, a piece of bondage gear, and it bears witness to my mother’s power, strength, and willingness to defy convention. Yet it also evokes for me her frailties, weaknesses, and shame—the many crosses she’s turned to me to help her carry. Not my cross to bear? This time it’s a question, and I know the answer is yes, it will be in the end.