If You Could See Me: Life,Motherhood, and the Pursuit of Sanity

by | Nov 26, 2018 | Book Reviews

Richmond author shares personal and universal stories in new book

Erin Mahone
Motivational Press, 2017

Reviewed by Amy Zelenka

Did you ever feel like you were living in that famous idiom: the inmates are running the asylum? Well, Erin Mahone, in her new book, If You Could See Me: Life, Motherhood, and the Pursuit of Sanity, seems to suggest that perhaps that’s not such a terrible thing.

Life will find its course, and we’ve all got to roll with the punches it deals us every now and then (or even more frequently). Mahone’s book, published in 2017 by Motivational Press, Inc. (a publisher whose very name is apropos of this book and its lessons) is warm and charming. Most moms I know (myself included) will see themselves represented, possibly more often than we care to admit, on the pages of this book.

A quick and easy read, I found myself reading and enjoying it in the oddest of places. I started it in shul during the High Holidays (Shhhhh, don’t tell the rabbi). I continued it while waiting for my Real ID Virginia Driver’s License at the DMV (read a lot of it there!) and finished it in the waiting rooms of various doctors’ offices in a week that saw one appointment after another (sometimes life just piles up the doctor visits). Please don’t worry about me. I’m fine. These were all just check-ups. But I can’t help feeling…there must be a metaphor in here somewhere. And Mahone’s book actually seems to be encouraging me find that metaphor!

It’s a book that draws you in, because it’s incredibly personal. As a compassionate reader, I felt nearly each of Mahone’s childhood, adolescent, and young adult struggles to find herself and to love herself. I cheered for each of her victories, and I dog-eared a lot of pages. Throughout the book Mahone’s own quotes, as well as quotes from well-known inspirational figures, framed or summarized up the vignette or observation which made up the chapter.

The individual chapters in Mahone’s book feel like little grenades of wisdom, which quietly shout: “Learn from me! You don’t have to live it.… I’ve already lived it for you!” Sometimes they also whisper: “And if you’ve been through this too…you get what I’m talking about, but don’t let it bum you out…there are other ways to look at it, new perspectives to try on, and you may find that some lay softer on your heart than others.”

If You Could See Me is a beautifully written book full of humor—some of it genuine and some of it used to mask an underlying sadness. But it’s also a reminder that life is beautiful—even in its ugliness; that we look at situations through a different lens, and find that beauty most unexpectedly. It’s also a poem to a love affair with motherhood—with its highs and lows and constant threats to our sanity. Mahone is a gifted writer with a beautiful soul that jumps of the pages of the book. She’s definitely someone I’d hang out and drink Pinot Grigio with any night of the week, just to hear her stories!


The Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival runs through December 2 and features a variety of authors and programs. For more information, visit JewishVA.org/book-fest.


Amy Zelenka is United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Women’s campaign director. She has two sons. She may be reached at AZelenka@ujft.org.