Writer Pam Houston once summed it up: “Nice mother-daughter stories are a dime a dozen; pain-in-the-ass mother-daughter stories are the ones that grab us.” As Long as I Know You is a compelling read for any adult grappling with a living elder who might also be a pain in the ass, particularly, any reader who wants a tender take on the lethal combination of dementia and defiance.
As Long as I Know You narrates Anne-Marie Oomen’s journey to finally knowing her mother as well as the heartbreaking loss of her mother’s immense capacities. It explores how humor and compassion grow belatedly between a mother and daughter who don’t much like each other. It’s a personal map to find a mother who may have been there all along, then losing her again in the time of Covid. As the millions of women like Oomen’s mother reach their elder years and become the “oldest of the old,” their millions of daughters (and sometimes sons) must come on board, involved in care they may welcome the way they’d welcome hitting a pothole the size of a semi. How a family makes decisions about that pothole, how care continues or does not, how possessions are addressed-really, no one wants the crockpot-and how the relationship shifts and evolves (or not), that story is universal.
It was a privilege to listen to Oomen perform some of her literary works. Upon introduction, I was instantly in awe. Her voice was genuine, and she relayed so much passion through her writings. Oomen read from her memoir Love, Sex, and 4H.” I liked how she used specific voices within her literature and during her performance. Each author has a “voice”, yet Oomen clearly has many; one for each character. Her inflections and silent pauses presented as if she was reading each piece like a poem. Also, in my Creative Writing class, we have read “From a High Place” and “Keep Clear of Me.” Both I fell in love with their prose. Through her writings which express a humble and poetic outlook, Anne-Marie Oomen has inspired me to continue to write. I cannot be more grateful.
Anne-Marie Oomen is the consummate professional whether she's leading a college level workshop or giving a wonderful reading of her own stunning work. She connects with her audience in the most tangible way-- with all five senses engaged in a unique dialogue between the written and spoken word.
Her beautiful language and elegant images lead us to a clarified sense of our yearning to belong—to a people and to a place.
Not many teachers of writing bring the kind of intelligence, compassion, creativity, and sense of fun to the classroom that Anne-Marie Oomen has to offer. As a director of an MFA program and as a writer myself, I am repeatedly awed by the way Anne-Marie brings out the best in her students, leading them down paths they didn’t even know existed inside them. Every time I have a chance to take an Oomen class, I do, and come out a better writer for the experience.
She teaches with knowledge, wisdom, and heart. She taps the elusive writer in every student and teases the muse within until it blossoms on its own. She is masterful, genuine, and inspirational