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Of Time and Memory: My Parents' Love Story

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Don Snyder knew nothing about his mother aside from the terrible fact that she died at the age of nineteen, just sixteen days after giving birth to him and his twin brother. All his life Don had been too shy, too deeply pained to ask his father or grandparents to tell him the story of the lovely girl named Peggy Snyder--what delighted or troubled her, who her friends were, Don Snyder knew nothing about his mother aside from the terrible fact that she died at the age of nineteen, just sixteen days after giving birth to him and his twin brother. All his life Don had been too shy, too deeply pained to ask his father or grandparents to tell him the story of the lovely girl named Peggy Snyder--what delighted or troubled her, who her friends were, how she fell in love, what cut short her brief life. But then, nearing his fiftieth birthday and compelled by his father's failing health, Snyder embarked on a quest to find his mother. He traveled many times from his home in Maine down to his mother's small Pennsylvania town to trace her childhood and adolescence. He tracked down Peggy's high school friends, spent time with her teachers, probed the memories of the girls--now elderly women-- who had been her bridesmaids. Detail by detail, Don pieced together the harrowing story of Peggy's final year--her passionate love affair with her husband, the unexpected pregnancy, the sudden illness that consumed her, and the impossible choice she was forced to make. A heartbreaking, overwhelmingly beautiful book, Of Time and Memory is a story of remembering--and reclaiming--the fragile mystery of a beloved life.


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Don Snyder knew nothing about his mother aside from the terrible fact that she died at the age of nineteen, just sixteen days after giving birth to him and his twin brother. All his life Don had been too shy, too deeply pained to ask his father or grandparents to tell him the story of the lovely girl named Peggy Snyder--what delighted or troubled her, who her friends were, Don Snyder knew nothing about his mother aside from the terrible fact that she died at the age of nineteen, just sixteen days after giving birth to him and his twin brother. All his life Don had been too shy, too deeply pained to ask his father or grandparents to tell him the story of the lovely girl named Peggy Snyder--what delighted or troubled her, who her friends were, how she fell in love, what cut short her brief life. But then, nearing his fiftieth birthday and compelled by his father's failing health, Snyder embarked on a quest to find his mother. He traveled many times from his home in Maine down to his mother's small Pennsylvania town to trace her childhood and adolescence. He tracked down Peggy's high school friends, spent time with her teachers, probed the memories of the girls--now elderly women-- who had been her bridesmaids. Detail by detail, Don pieced together the harrowing story of Peggy's final year--her passionate love affair with her husband, the unexpected pregnancy, the sudden illness that consumed her, and the impossible choice she was forced to make. A heartbreaking, overwhelmingly beautiful book, Of Time and Memory is a story of remembering--and reclaiming--the fragile mystery of a beloved life.

30 review for Of Time and Memory: My Parents' Love Story

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    This is a book about the chasms that open up between people - between husband and wife, father and son, son and mother, parents and daughter, doctor and patient, the quick and the dead, and that suck our lives into them. It's about as poignant a story of love and loss as anyone could imagine. Snyder and his twin brother, David, were born in August 1950 to a mother suffering from acute preeclampsia - a condition where the fetus literally poisons the mother. In this case, there were two fetuses, S This is a book about the chasms that open up between people - between husband and wife, father and son, son and mother, parents and daughter, doctor and patient, the quick and the dead, and that suck our lives into them. It's about as poignant a story of love and loss as anyone could imagine. Snyder and his twin brother, David, were born in August 1950 to a mother suffering from acute preeclampsia - a condition where the fetus literally poisons the mother. In this case, there were two fetuses, Snyder and his brother (this is before the invention of ultrasound), so his mother was receiving double if not an exponentially higher dose of toxicity. In 1950, the options were limited - induce labor early and, basically, abort the child to save the mother's life or allow the mother to carry the child (or in this case, children) to term and risk the mother's death. Peggy Snyder chose to go the distance and died mere days after she gave birth at age 19, leaving her husband a widower with two infants to raise, children who never knew their mother and never really new anything about her, except the slimmest details from their father, until they were adults. Peggy Snyder gave her life for her babies and left the world a tragic enigma until Don Snyder, her son, set out to find his mother, her story and the love story between his parents that had remained interred and unremarked. This story is a form of family archaeology and discovery in which Don Snyder, professional author, interviews his aging father who shared little about his wife Peggy and is now suffering from "amnesia" (Alzheimer's?), aging friends of his mother and father in Hatfield and Lansdale, PA, hospital personnel, doctors, nurses, etc. There is some profound and breathtaking writing in this book - real "WOW!" stuff, and a lot of literary license when the narrative shifts to the point of view of Peggy Snyder. The description of his mother's agony and travails during pregnancy are strong stuff. Stronger still, in my view, are the descriptions of how isolated she became from her husband, her friends and her parents, how clueless and helpless Snyder's father was to help his wife who was, literally, being poisoned to death in front of him. I liked this book: it is as tender, heartfelt and beautifully crafted as writing gets. A lot of soul went into researching and writing this memoir. He never beats you over the head with the tale. Nevertheless, it was a difficult book to read, in places, and I cannot say I "enjoyed" it. Furthermore, I felt no real sense of personal closure at the end, either for Don Snyder or his father, or for his twin, David (who is only occasionally mentioned in the book). I suppose any kind of closure would be elusive, perhaps, given the nature of the subject matter. There is anger, resignation, sadness, bafflement and frustration in Snyder's narrative. Yet no sense of resolution of these emotions emerged for me, apart from Snyder's observations of the brevity and, ultimately, sadness of his mother's life, and the enduring sorrow borne by his father, how happiness and visions of happily ever after can turn on a dime to become crushing grief. I applaud Snyder for bearing witness to his parents' story, for seeking truths that time and memory (or lack thereof) nearly erased.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kandice

    This was obviously a labor of love. A young man, born a twin, whose mother died soon after his birth goes back and tries to reconstruct her life. Sadly, that life comprised only 19 years. Snyder's style is what kept me from giving this more stars. It was very dry and devoid of feeling. I had feelings about what I was reading, mostly sorrow, but he seemed to have none. What he found was relayed in such a dry voice, that I felt almost silly for the depth of feeling I would occasionally experience. I This was obviously a labor of love. A young man, born a twin, whose mother died soon after his birth goes back and tries to reconstruct her life. Sadly, that life comprised only 19 years. Snyder's style is what kept me from giving this more stars. It was very dry and devoid of feeling. I had feelings about what I was reading, mostly sorrow, but he seemed to have none. What he found was relayed in such a dry voice, that I felt almost silly for the depth of feeling I would occasionally experience. In addition to "finding" his mother, he discovers something of a mystery. Why did she die? Did she have to? Had he unraveled that mystery in a different way, I believe this could have been a five star book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Simmons

    As I finished this book, I became angry at Don Snyder's mother. She chose to give up her life in order that her child might live. I am sure it was a difficult decision, but I feel she should have given her husband and her parents a chance to help her decide. As it turns out, she had twins...........so she left two little boys without a mother. I also feel angry at the doctor and hospital who let her go home from the hospital several days after the twins were born. I am not sure if they could hav As I finished this book, I became angry at Don Snyder's mother. She chose to give up her life in order that her child might live. I am sure it was a difficult decision, but I feel she should have given her husband and her parents a chance to help her decide. As it turns out, she had twins...........so she left two little boys without a mother. I also feel angry at the doctor and hospital who let her go home from the hospital several days after the twins were born. I am not sure if they could have done anything to help or save her..........after all, this was around l950 long before all of the medical advances that we take for granted today. I guess the author made up a lot as he wrote this book, since it is listed as fiction instead of non fiction. He really has no idea what his mother was thinking or how she felt. Still, I commend him for being brave enough to seek out the truth about his mothers short life and for having the courage to write this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jean Carlton

    Read in 2001 Books not added to my Goodreads account are transferred from my old 'records' notebook. Read in 2001 Books not added to my Goodreads account are transferred from my old 'records' notebook.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    A serendipitous pick at the library. Just browsing the shelves and found this book...just weeks before celebrating my son's 38th birthday. Other ironies: I'm the same age as the author and I was diagnosed with toxemia when pregnant with my son. Unlike the author's mother, I had a good outcome. Both my son and I survived. When Don Snyder describes his mother ripping the seams of her maternity clothes because she couldn't fit in them anymore, memory flashed back as I eventually only had one outfit A serendipitous pick at the library. Just browsing the shelves and found this book...just weeks before celebrating my son's 38th birthday. Other ironies: I'm the same age as the author and I was diagnosed with toxemia when pregnant with my son. Unlike the author's mother, I had a good outcome. Both my son and I survived. When Don Snyder describes his mother ripping the seams of her maternity clothes because she couldn't fit in them anymore, memory flashed back as I eventually only had one outfit I could wear. I gained 75 pounds during this pregnancy and I used to joke that I could sit and watch the fat cells grow. The book is a sad exploration into the life of the author's mother...her brief "love affair" with the author's father. The grief of all who knew Peggy who died at 19. Mr. Snyder touches on the melancholy nature of his mother, the emptiness of never hearing anyone talk about his mother, and the rush to find her story before his father dies. I liked this book because of my own love for family stories, genealogy, and the importance I place on knowing as much as we can about our family history. If you share these interests, I recommend you read this book. a good book club possibility as it lends itself to great discussion on so many issues.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Some authors write books to have written them--their product is the end result. In this book, the writing was Snyder's recording of the end result--his giving meaning to the mother he lost. That being said, the sentimental value alone is not reason enough to read it; sentiment is fine, but it's Snyder's opening up, his fear of knowing things as they happen that makes you feel you're there, like you're seeing it happen in the moment vs. hearing the spin the author has put on it afterward. That's a Some authors write books to have written them--their product is the end result. In this book, the writing was Snyder's recording of the end result--his giving meaning to the mother he lost. That being said, the sentimental value alone is not reason enough to read it; sentiment is fine, but it's Snyder's opening up, his fear of knowing things as they happen that makes you feel you're there, like you're seeing it happen in the moment vs. hearing the spin the author has put on it afterward. That's a great challenge for a writer, for it's so easy (and justified) to put a colorful spin on a story once you've had time to think about it. I've told friends that Snyder writes as if he's telling his best friend in private and you the reader are merely overhearing it. That's refreshing, for the author shows his own fears and flaws as he learns them along the way. ONE OF MY FIVE BEST BOOKS OF ALL TIME.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    Don Snyder's mother died in 1950 at the age of nineteen. She had given birth to Don and his twin brother only sixteen days prior to her death. Snyder delves into his mother's past to tell her brief life story. Snyder's mother, Peggy, suffered from preeclampsia, a medical condition which apparently still accounts for approximately 76,000 deaths per year, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation. This book is terribly sad as Snyder culls through his parents' past and reveals his mother's ultimate Don Snyder's mother died in 1950 at the age of nineteen. She had given birth to Don and his twin brother only sixteen days prior to her death. Snyder delves into his mother's past to tell her brief life story. Snyder's mother, Peggy, suffered from preeclampsia, a medical condition which apparently still accounts for approximately 76,000 deaths per year, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation. This book is terribly sad as Snyder culls through his parents' past and reveals his mother's ultimate sacrifice in order to save the lives of her twin sons.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    This book had a lot better rating then I would have given it. There was way too much repetitiveness! It was interesting learning about his Mother, who definitely had a mental disorder, and finding out why she died after the birth of her twin babies. Her death was in the 60's, so it was definitely a different time. The main story line seemed to be who to blame for his Mother's death, not about their love story, even though that was in there, too. I wouldn't recommend this book. This book had a lot better rating then I would have given it. There was way too much repetitiveness! It was interesting learning about his Mother, who definitely had a mental disorder, and finding out why she died after the birth of her twin babies. Her death was in the 60's, so it was definitely a different time. The main story line seemed to be who to blame for his Mother's death, not about their love story, even though that was in there, too. I wouldn't recommend this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ms. S...........

    Watched a beautiful movie, Sweet Land, which starts by quoting this book... "Let us hope that we are all preceded in this world by a love story." And yet, the love story that precedes Mr. Snyder does not give him the peace and bouyancy that he needs. Poor man! He needs to forgive himself and relish in the life that was given to him, since it really was preceded by a great (but sad) love story. Well written, intense, and deep. Watched a beautiful movie, Sweet Land, which starts by quoting this book... "Let us hope that we are all preceded in this world by a love story." And yet, the love story that precedes Mr. Snyder does not give him the peace and bouyancy that he needs. Poor man! He needs to forgive himself and relish in the life that was given to him, since it really was preceded by a great (but sad) love story. Well written, intense, and deep.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marti Dahlquist

    Well written and at points incredibly sad, but the story was not gripping enough to grab me and keep my attention. It might have made a good article in a magazine but I'm not sure it needed an entire book to tell the story. Well written and at points incredibly sad, but the story was not gripping enough to grab me and keep my attention. It might have made a good article in a magazine but I'm not sure it needed an entire book to tell the story.

  11. 4 out of 5

    andrea

    What an amazing author...to dedicate such time and put all his love into finding the people that knew his mother when she was alive... And then to write her love story... So beautiful... She is smiling down on her son... The son she gave her life for

  12. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    One of the saddest books I have ever read, OF TIME AND MEMORY nevertheless reflects the difficult exigencies that someone somewhere has to face every day. Snyder's search for one love story turned into another of a different kind. One of the saddest books I have ever read, OF TIME AND MEMORY nevertheless reflects the difficult exigencies that someone somewhere has to face every day. Snyder's search for one love story turned into another of a different kind.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nfiore

    THIS BOOK IS HEARTBREAKINGLY MAGNIFICENT -- A RARE MEMOIR ABOUT THE MYSTERY AND POWER OF LOVE BETWEEN A SON AND THE YOUNG MOTHER HE NEVER GOT TO KNOW. BREATHTAKING!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    A melancholy love story. It's a dark work of art. A melancholy love story. It's a dark work of art.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    horribly sad story, but Snyder writes beautifully. He was quoted at the beginning of the film Sweetland and I had to search for this book in order to read more.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Stuart

    I grew up in Hatfield and knew many of the people interviewed as well as the locations. However I did not like the style of writing

  17. 5 out of 5

    Samuel Parish

    An excellent memoir of the author's mother and her sacrifice. An excellent memoir of the author's mother and her sacrifice.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sally Strong

    Beautifully written

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jim Bremser

    Wow!!!!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Raymond

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jane

  22. 4 out of 5

    Patsy Catsos

  23. 5 out of 5

    John

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emma

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jen

  26. 5 out of 5

    Beth

  27. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Beaulieu

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stella

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bret

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