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Daughter of the Queen of Sheba

About the Book

Daughter of the Queen of Sheba

Jacki Lyden is known to many as a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, a vocation which has brought her to the front lines of some of the world's most precarious regions. But in this memoir, she tells of the precariousness of her childhood and of her struggles growing up with her manic depressive mother. Beautiful, with a quick imagination and a constant yearning for a wider life than the one she was offered in her small Wisconsin town, Dolores Lyden filled her daughters' lives with the uncertainty that comes from parental instability. Her divorce from her first husband, a man who was dearly loved by his three daughters, was the initial blow to their family life. But her subsequent, and ultimately destructive marriage to a wealthy physician triggered the primary episode of Dolores' manic depression—and sent Jacki and her sisters lives' into a freefall of confusion and chaos that would last for two decades.

Jacki never knew how and when her mother's sickness would take hold. It was the 1960s, and the concept of the "mad housewife" hadn't quite swept the American consciousness. Nor had the realities of spousal abuse. The Doctor's cruel treatment of Dolores' daughters, especially Jacki, forced Dolores to make a choice between her daughters' welfare and her marriage. It was a choice difficult enough to drive any woman crazy and quite possibly brought about the onset of Dolores' mental illness. As a teenager and a young woman struggling to find her place in the world, Jacki was forced to become a parent to her own parent at a time when she could have benefited from a mother's good sense. She turned instead to her grandmother, Mabel, a hardscrabble woman who'd suffered enormous losses of her own yet managed to live happily on her own terms—a woman whom many wouldn't have hesitated to call crazy. The influences of these two powerful women instilled in the Lyden daughters an appreciation of their lives' unpredictability. But it also instilled in them a determination to make their way in an uncertain world, and helped them appreciate the force of their own imaginations—a force which, sadly, often got the better of their mother.

Jacki grew to accept, and even relish, the manifestations of her mother's illness. In her memoir she marvels at her mother's creative energy, at the intricate workings of the extraordinary mind that took Dolores to such exotic places as Mesopotamia or eighteenth-century France. Later, Jacki would become a traveler in her own right, more at home in the unsettled territory of the Middle East than with the comfort that comes from a quiescent life. As a journalist covering the front lines of some of the world's most dangerous war zones, Jacki's chaotic childhood experiences have allowed her to comprehend the insanity that prevails in so many peoples' lives. Hers was not, perhaps, a childhood she would have chosen, but it's the only one she knows. And so, in this hilarious, lyrical, and achingly beautiful tribute we come to know Dolores, to empathize with Jacki, and to revel in an unusually moving story about mothers, daughters, and growing up.

Daughter of the Queen of Sheba
by Jacki Lyden

  • Publication Date: October 1, 1998
  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 014027684X
  • ISBN-13: 9780733609022