The joke goes like this:
How do you know Jesus was Jewish?
His mother thought he was a god, and he thought his mother was a virgin.
I know my mom has no illusions about me (she’s an atheist), but it might be my own Jewish heritage that makes me so afraid of reading the stuff my mom writes. My mother’s written short stories and novels since I was a kid, but whenever I’ve dared to start reading anything of hers, I’ve always come up against proof that my mom feels emotions, has urges, and is actually a human being. I can handle pretty much anything from other authors, but if there’s so much as a little ankle showing in something my mom’s written, I suddenly turn back into an insecure 12-year old. As a result, I’ve never read a Mary W. Walters novel cover-to-cover. I’m pretty much the worst son in the world.
The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid was co-written, mostly over Skype, by my mother in Toronto, and John A. Aragon, a close friend of hers in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’ve read reviews of the book that say it’s a fun, fast-paced Western that borrows themes from the legends of Don Quixote and Billy the Kid (Great!). I’ve also heard, from my own mother no less, that there are graphic scenes of heterosexual and lesbian sex in the book (Oh God why?). Clearly I’d been planning to avoid this book at all costs, but my mom foiled that plan this past fall.
Of all the jerky things to do, my mom read an early draft of the book I’d written. She provided encouragement, and extremely helpful comments, and then she selflessly promoted my book on social media. I literally think everyone she knows has been talked into buying my book. What’s worse, I really believe she did all of that out of love and support, with no expectation that I’d read her book in return. The guilt was crushing me. By Christmas it was clear that if I didn’t read her book soon, I was going to hate myself forever. That’s why, against all my instincts against it, I started reading a book full of sex scenes written by my mom.
It’s the story of Roz, an eighteen-year old stable-hand in the turn-of-the-20th-century New Mexico who falls in love with a married woman and gets quickly thrown into an epic journey across the wild West. The book is cut up into small, digestible chapters (I like that in a book), each of which is “spoiled” by a title that tells you what’s about to happen. I’d keep trying to guess ahead of the plot, but the book kept heading me off at the pass. All in all, it was a rocking good ride.
Before long, though, the inevitable happened.
I tried to imagine it was my mom’s coauthor who wrote the sex scenes and that somehow my mom’s role in the writing process did not even involve reading those passages at all. That didn’t work, though. What resulted was a book where I always felt like I’d enjoyed what I’d read so far, but was constantly stressed that the whatever might happen in the next chapter might send me spiralling into hell.
I’m thrilled to say that I finished the book last night. Yup, now I’ve finally read one of my mom’s novels. Don Valiente didn’t really change how I feel about my mom. She’s still brilliant, funny, and full of surprises. What did change for me in reading the book, though, is that I finally feel less like I’m the worst son in the world.
(Of course, there are all those other books she’s written…)
I recommend The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid to anyone to whom my mother has not given birth. The book is available on Amazon.