Waiting to begin : a memoir
In the opening scene of Waiting to Begin Patricia O'Donnell speaks to incoming students at a university, telling of her transformation from a rebellious young woman to the writer and professor standing before them. Pat feels the story is not wholly true however, that some of the professor was in the younger woman, and that there is "something of that young woman--lawless, braless, rude and exuberant--in me now." Here's the real story, she writes.
I knew the exuberant young woman, as a student in the same MFA writing program Pat attended. She arrived in Amherst, Massachusetts in the middle of a snowy winter, in a beat-up Chrysler with two young kids. I found this inspiring. Pat tells of her parents, who followed her from Iowa, that leaving their promising daughter, a single mother in a motel room, was "not what they had expected."
Pat struggled at first but placed a story in the New Yorker, found love with a fellow student, and went on to establish a creative writing program. Waiting to Begin is a love story in other ways, as Pat revisits her devastated hometown in Iowa, concurrently telling of a heart-wrenching event unfolding in her daughter's life. Pat O'Donnell is a courageous writer just as she was a courageous young woman, writing openly with remarkable sympathy. She remains an inspiration.
Bottom Dog Press
O'Donnell, Patricia, "Waiting to begin : a memoir" (2016). Publications. 51.