Skip to main content


November 24, 2009

Lisa Scottoline: Mother Mary and the Christmas Sinatra

Posted by admin

Today's guest blogger is Lisa Scottoline, bestselling author of sixteen thrillers and one work of nonfiction --- the newly released WHY MY THIRD HUSBAND WILL BE A DOG: The Amazing Adventures of An Ordinary Woman. Below, gives us a heartwarming mother-daughter tale about how it’s never too late to give the gift of literature.

I grew up in a household filled with laughter, love, and meatballs but only one book.

It wasn’t the Bible.

It was TV Guide.

By way of background, both of my parents were first-generation immigrants from Italy to Philadelphia, and my mother grew up the youngest of nineteen children. Yes, you read that right. The Scottolines make Octo-Mom look like a slacker.

My mother’s family was impoverished (and whose wouldn’t be?), and though she graduated from high school, she couldn’t afford college. Still, she’s one smart cookie, and she became a secretary, learning to type at warp speed and to take Gregg shorthand, which you’re too young to know about. But she never read for pleasure, and even after I had become an author, she didn’t read my books.

Though she went one better.

She’d do anything to help me, so she proofread a draft of each of my sixteen novels, each time sending me pages of corrections written with a shaky red flair, comments like “AIN’T IS NOT A WORD, HONEY!!”

And despite that fact that she always said something nice about the books (“GREAT JOB, SWEETIE”), I know she didn’t read them for content. She was too busy making sure the words were correct, especially because she knows I can’t type.

But one Christmas, I asked her why she didn’t read books, and she answered, “Why bother? I can’t see the words anymore. I do the crossword with a magnifying glass.”

I felt terrible. I hadn’t realized. She lives with my brother in Miami. “Ma, If I got you a book you could see, would you read it?”

“If it’s a good one.”

I was on it. I went to the bookstore and bought her a few books in large print, though I knew the one she’d pick first, and I was right:


She read it like a fiend, never leaving the chair next to the Christmas tree, and two days later, she finally closed her book. Her milky brown eyes looked tired behind her trifocals, but her face wore a smile. She said, “That was a great book!”

“What did you like about it?” I asked, which proved unnecessary, because for the rest of her visit, all she talked about was Frank Sinatra. And when she went back to Miami, she went to the first book signing of her life, at the wonderful Books & Books on Lincoln Road, where she scored her first autographed book:

THE GOOD LIFE by Tony Bennett.

Now she reads all the time, and I keep her supplied like a high-rent pusher, and I know she’ll be reading my new book because she’s its heroine. It’s my first nonfiction book, entitled WHY MY THIRD HUSBAND WILL BE A DOG: The Amazing Adventures of An Ordinary Woman, and it’s a collection of funny stories from my real life. Mother Mary inspired the book because of her strength and resilience in all she lived through. She’s exactly what Eleanor Roosevelt was talking about when she said, “A woman is like a tea bag. You don’t know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.”

I think my stories will resonate with you as well as make you laugh out loud. I write about how I convinced Mother Mary to throw away her 30-year-old bra, why you should burn your Spanx, and how to survive Valentine’s Day when you’re very single like me. Hint: get a dog and love it. Because the thing about love is that you can’t control whether you get it, but you can control whether you give it, and each feels as good as the other. Your heart doesn’t know if it’s loving a puppy, a man, or spaghetti. If your heart were that smart, it would be your brain.

So enjoy the book, and the holidays, and remember:

Ain’t is not a word, honey.

-- Lisa Scottoline

We’ll be giving you a double dose of holiday blogs tomorrow as both Cathy Lamb and Holly Goddard Jones stop by to share their personal memories on literature and how it affected their holidays.