On Sundays, the family has a ritual: The parents sleep late because the night before they drank and smoked extensively in the living room. In the afternoon they send their two children off to fetch supplies. It’s always a bottle of Korn. The siblings are allowed to buy liquorice and chewing gum for themselves. In the evening everyone watches “Bonanza” on TV together.
Dazed boredom, which can turn into violent arguments at any time, hangs over these Sundays. They take place in a middle-class area of Düsseldorf in the early 1970s. The journalist Andrea Roedig, who was born in 1963, remembered this around 50 years later for her book “Mothers can’t be trusted”. It is a mother Lilo-focused look into a family hell that was still in balance at the time of the Sunday booze.
But a little later, the “crisis of 1974” occurs, as Roedig called the central chapter – after the inscription on an envelope that she found in a box with diaries. This crisis begins with the bankruptcy of the parents’ butcher’s shop. It is one of the three largest in the city, an institution that had brought prosperity and prestige to the family. For a number of reasons, alcohol being one of them, that is now a thing of the past. The employees have to leave, the Porsche is sold and they move into a smaller apartment in another part of the city.
First, the parents find a job in the meat products department of a supermarket, but eventually both quit and drink more, and the mother abuses pills. Money is getting tighter and tighter, the parents scrounge by and gradually move the entire household – including things that belong to Andrea and her younger brother Christoph.
“Revenge” is written in large letters on one of her diary sheets because her mother – she usually calls her by her first name Lilo – “had found the beloved penny money box and sent Christoph to the supermarket with a hundred individual coins to buy bouillon cubes.” Reading these incredibly vivid reports , is often difficult, especially since the siblings face their fate, which they often face with a bravery that is often characteristic of children, from those around them at first no and then only the most necessary support.
Writing must have been hard too. The anger, disappointment and hurt of the author, who has lived in Vienna for a long time, are present in her book without the tone becoming lazy or accusatory. Roedig is primarily concerned with understanding the mother, who was born in 1938, and portraying it as precisely as possible, based on diaries, photos, her own memories and those of her brother. She goes back to Lilo’s war childhood, outlines the difficult relationship with her mother, the Catholic milieu, and finally blossoming into “a very beautiful, extravagant woman”.
A multi-faceted picture emerges, with which Andrea Roedig inscribes herself in the series of impressive mother books that also include Annie Ernaux, Édouard Louis and Vivian Gornick. Like them, Roedig tries to make the highly emotional topic comprehensible in writing, and also more bearable. The fact that Lilo disappeared without a trace for almost three years after the “crisis of 1974” deeply shocks her children – and it leaves traces, ultimately ditches.
Roedig describes how diametrically different she and her mother live: Lilo is about beauty, her about cleverness. Lilo becomes dependent on men, she builds up her independence. Roedig also sees the fact that she – like her brother – is openly homosexual in connection with her childhood. Homosexuality is not only a kind of desire, but “also a form of resistance – in my case, definitely, and the refusal to start a family.” Not continuing an ancestral line, but writing it down in a book – that too is self-empowerment . And the right of a daughter.