A Book Review
After you finish the last page, there are books that you forget about right away. But then there are those rare ones that remain with you forever. Cynthia Montanaro’s Diary of a Country Mother is one of those. This book is a biography of her mentally-challenged son, Timothy, whose life was cut short in an accident as a teenager. Montanaro, a homeschooling veteran, says that she wrote it as a celebration of Tim’s life, but most of all as a “thanksgiving journal to God.”
Diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome with accompanying obsessive compulsive disorders and phobias, Tim’s life was difficult in many ways. Yet, as his mother describes it, Tim was an intensely likeable little boy whose body grew over the years but never lost his innocence and or failed to express his love for all those around him, frequently with hugs. As she describes him: “Tim was a great one for showing his love to others. He didn’t just wear his heart on his sleeve; it was emblazoned on his chest in superhero fashion. This endeared him to most adults.”
She explains that Tim had the rare ability to see Christ in all those around him. Despite his tribulations, she explains how her son taught her and all those around Tim how better to love each other. She also explains how he conveyed joy to his parents: “When God added to our family the simplicity and insights of a mentally-challenged child, our joy reached a completely new level.”
You certainly get to know and love Tim during the course of her book. Yet, one of most moving aspects of the book is how Cynthia deals with the loss of her child. Her words express a painful grieving; seemingly everything around her is a reminder of her son: her home, her garden, and the places they went together. Yet Cynthia Montanaro is not lost in grief. In a way, she is found.
Her heart is restful because, as she explains, “A large measure of that sweet peace is due to the faith we have that Tim’s story has a happy ending and an ending that has no end.” All too often, we think of peace as the absence of turmoil, but she illustrates how peace is not about absence, it is about the presence of God in our hearts, and the trust we have in Him. “Trusting Him when the good is not yet in focus can be the struggle of a lifetime,” she writes.
This is an intensely spiritual book, as Cynthia draws on the words of Scripture and the writings of the saints for strength. There are many quotes in the book, and when she cites those like St. Augustine or St. Paul, you get a sense that she is calling on an old friend.
It is not simply that Cynthia Montanaro is a gifted writer. It is evident that she recognizes the power of words—in this case, the power of words to communicate the gift that is her son. She spent a year of her life writing Tim’s biography because she believed that her son was someone that the world should get to know. She succeeds at her goal, and in the process, the reader gets to know her, which is a gift. This is a book that examines the emotional ventricles of a mother’s heart in a way that is rarely explored in print.
This book serves as a powerful antidote to living in an age that casually rejects maternity, by examining the beauty of motherhood in its poignancy and its bliss.
This book may not find much of an audience, and that’s a shame. In today’s publishing world, the cream fails to rise to the top. So much ink and marketing dollars are devoted to books that fail to capture any beauty or truth—or worse: succeed in capturing ugliness and deceit. But this book will be of tremendous value to readers of this magazine. This is an important book that celebrates life—that makes you want to rush home and give your kids a hug…which is just what Timothy Andrew Zozimus Montanaro would have done.
Diary of a Country Mother is published by Roman Catholic Books.