I read My Mama Marie by Joan Errea about a month ago and while reading it, I was reminded of the summer vacations my family and I would take to my mom’s childhood house outside Enterprise, Oregon. My mom’s family raised sheep when she was growing up and have been in and out of the ranching business for generations, so there were many stories in My Mama Marie that reminded me of sitting around in my mom’s childhood home looking through old photographs, letters and books, while my older relatives told stories that we had all heard a million times and walking around the hills of rural Oregon that used to be my grandfather’s sheep’s grazing grounds. Both the book and the experiences I have with my mom’s family are a way of understanding people who have been gone for years, that we can only know through the memories of others and photographs and trinkets they left behind.
Family is a complex and defining part of life, often shaping the foundation for the way we live and view the world through the course of our lives. Errea in her book My Mama Marie shares her memories of growing up on the ranches of rural Nevada, focusing on her relationship with her mother, Marie Jeanne Goyhenetche.
Errea goes through the course of her mother’s life starting with her childhood in the French Pyrenees to her immigrating to the United States and starting a family with Errea’s father, Arnaud Paris, on the ranches of rural Nevada. My Mama Marie is full of stories of celebration, heartbreak, love and understanding. Though there are many stories of what it is like to live on a ranch and what it is like to live in rural Nevada, My Mama Marie is at its core a story about how a daughter begins to understand her mother, which I think is why in the end it is so relatable.