Emilia’s grief is forced into the spotlight as she struggles to align herself with her mother, an activist who changed the world though coordinating a mass suicide. Gripping from the outset, the reader experiences the shocks, revelations and confusion with the protagonist as she compiles her memoir, recounting her struggle to separate her mother from the personality propelled and twisted by the increasingly powerful Community she left behind.
For all that she never spoke a word for the last eight years of her life, Rachel’s silence was startlingly ostentatious. It was an unignorable, confrontational, in-your-face, do-as-I-do display of her Talk Less, Listen More philosophy. But what most people don’t understand, except those of us who knew her best, was just how often my mother also used her silence to distract and deflect. By wrapping herself in a thick miasma of silence she filtered out her flaws, diluted her weaknesses, her vanities and her conceits. You don’t have to look very far today to see how successful she was at doing this. Just consider how Rachel of Chalkham is venerated as the unblemished embodiment of all that the Community stands for. Do as Rachel of Chalkham did. Aspire to be like Rachel of Chalkham. Strive to follow Rachel of Chalkham’s example. And so on and so on.
What is often forgotten, though, is that underneath her flamboyant silence, Rachel had the same emotions, the same doubts and, frankly, the same (if not considerably more) flaws as anyone else.