Did you ever have that one friend, boss, coworker, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. who was so amazing to you that you got involved in the thing he or she was most passionate about? That passion for a religion, a product, or a way of life emanated from that person so strongly, and you were so vulnerable, so lonely, so in need of something in common that would make you feel like you belonged.
Donna Carol Voss did, many times, and her willingness to succumb to the gravitational pull of others stemmed from an insecurity created in an emotionless family when she was a child. So goes her memoir, One of Everything. The titles alludes to the saying “I’ll have one of everything,” because Voss sampled many different lifestyles, identifying at different periods in her life as a pagan, a drug abuser, a bisexual, a married woman, a mother, and finally, a Mormon.
What promises to be an in-depth back story of a by-choice Mormon adult woman who adopted a family of at-risk siblings instead turns out to be a laundry list of questionable choices. I mean, we are all made up of those, (am I right, ladies?) but Voss rolls out one story after another about how she got caught up in tarot-reading, or lied to her senile father about hitting another car with her own in Mexico, or didn’t have the courage to break up with a girlfriend, or married a man she knew wasn’t right for her. And on and on.
Each story is something special: together they make a life, one that continues to affect a great many people. I respect that. As a collection of tales that is meant to tie in to a good read, well, to be honest, I found the main character frustrating. I know that must be hard in a memoir, to portray yourself fairly, and indeed Voss is brave about revealing her mistakes and selfishness in every instance. But she also manages to include the blame she feels should be put on others in her life. Her parents, her college dorm mates, her employers, and ultimately, of course, her mother.
The list of things I will have to forgive myself for someday is long, the fight with Coral the most humiliating, the lowest point I will ever reach. And yet the moment of laughter with my mother, the silver lining that embroiders its bittersweet edge around even this, makes it precious. I would do it all again for that moment of laughter.
The writing is competent even as the stories seem to be, one after another, a string of attempts by Voss to convince herself, more so even than us, that her life choices are okay.
She’s made it this far, and published a book about it, so she must have done something right. You’re going to be okay, Donna, I wanted to say to her as I read her book. All of us are, in the end.
One of Everything by Donna Carol Voss
$13.60 on Amazon