Never Simple

By Liz Scheier

This gripping and darkly funny memoir “is a testament to the undeniable, indestructible love between a mother and a daughter” (Isaac Mizrahi).

Liz Scheier’s mother was a news junkie, a hilarious storyteller, a fast-talking charmer you couldn’t look away from, a single mother whose devotion crossed the line into obsession, and—when in the grips of the mental illness that plagued her—a masterful liar. On an otherwise uneventful afternoon when Scheier was eighteen, her mother sauntered into the room and dropped two bombshells. First, that she had been married for most of the previous two decades to a man Liz had never heard of and, second, that the man she had claimed was Liz’s dead father was entirely fictional. She’d made him up—his name, the stories, everything.

Those big lies were the start, but not the end; it had taken dozens of smaller lies to support them, and by the time she was done she had built a fairy-tale, half-true life for the two of them. Judith Scheier’s charm was more than matched by her eccentricity, and Liz had always known there was something wrong in their home. After all, other mothers didn’t raise a child single-handedly with no visible source of income, or hide their children behind fake Social Security numbers, or host giant parties in a one-bedroom Manhattan apartment only to throw raging tantrums when the door closed behind the guests.

Now, decades later, armed with clues to her father’s identity—and as her mother’s worsening dementia reveals truths she never intended to share—Liz attempts to uncover the real answers to the mysteries underpinning her childhood. Trying to construct a “normal” life out of decidedly abnormal roots, she navigates her own circuitous path to adulthood: a bizarre breakup, an unexpected romance, and the birth of her son and daughter. Along the way, Liz wrestles with questions of what we owe our parents even when they fail us, and of how to share her mother’s hilarity, limitless love, and creativity with children—without passing down the trauma of her mental illness. Never Simple is the story of enduring the legacy of a hard-to-love parent with compassion, humor, and, ultimately, self-preservation.

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