Minna Zallman Proctor’s Landslide is a captivating collection of interconnected personal essays. These “true stories” explore the author’s complicated relationship with her mother — who was diagnosed with cancer at age fifty-seven and died fifteen years later — and the ways in which their connection was long the “prime mover” of Proctor’s life, the subtle force coursing beneath her adulthood. As such, these vibrant essays also narrate the trials and triumphs of Proctor’s own life — shifting between America and Italy (and loving “being a foreigner, the constant sense of unfamiliarity that supplanted all of my expectations and disappointments”), her bumpy first marriage, the profound pleasure she takes in motherhood, and the confounding experience of trying to arrange a Jewish burial for her “Jewish, not quite Jewish” mother.
Proctor has an integrity and humor that is never extinguished despite life’s mounting difficulties. She also slyly questions her own narrative throughout. “Not having told this story before means I never fixed many details in my memory,” she writes. “[I] have to rely on flashes, the transparent stills that hang in my mind, made of smell, the way the light casts, the wind on skin.” The essays in this book are a sharply intelligent exploration of what happens when death and divorce unmoor you from certainties, and about the unreliable stories we tell ourselves, and others, in order to live.