Broken Chair: An Intimate Look at a Mother-Daughter Relationship

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Local author Denyse Mouck’s foray into her first full-length novel is a historical fiction story following the journey of four generations of women trying to survive the restrictions of their time and place from the late 1800s to the late from the 1900s.

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broken chair is an intimate look at stories passed down from mother to daughter that shine a light on the oppression and misogyny encountered across generations.

Starting first from the perspective of her own mother, Rhita – “spelled with an ‘H’” – Denyse takes readers into close personal relationships and events experienced by generations of mothers in her family.

“It’s just the transition of women from being nothing until about the 70s,” Mouck said. “The final chapter is kind of me – where we haven’t finished yet (with the tie) but this hundred year transition has been a long one.”

Many stories written in broken chair were accounts heard by Mouck from his mother. Readers will be shocked at how normalized sexual harassment was and that those who experienced it were expected to keep quiet about their experiences.

“There are stories in there that happened to my mother that would send shivers down the spine of Stephen King,” Mouck said. “Her generation didn’t talk much, you only got a little snippet…so she kept telling me those little things.”

The book also serves as a way for Mouck to honor her late mother and ensure her story is remembered by more than herself. Putting herself in the shoes of her mother and the other characters around her, Mouck tells a very personal story about the trials and tribulations of the women in her family.

“I wanted to honor him after he died. Like all mothers and daughters, you don’t really understand each other except in retrospect…You look back and you start to see the world through their eyes,” Mouck said. That’s how the book was born. I let my mother tell her story. I tried to become each of the characters in the book, how they would have felt after going through those experiences.

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While this may be Mouck’s feature debut, she’s no stranger to writing. She has been an avid writer of short stories and poetry for much of her life. The book’s title, broken chair actually comes from a poem of his that bears the same name.

The poem, which launched the book, is also a very personal window into the relationship between Mouck and his mother.

She explained that her mother took pride in the cleanliness of her home. She also took pride in the fact that if something was broken, she was able to fix it. The attention and care she gave to her material objects eclipsed what she gave to her children.

“She was more focused on her business than her kids,” Moucke said. “The poem is about a little girl who would sit and watch her mother put fringes and fabric on furniture and things like that… The last line of a poem was, ‘and sometimes I wish I was a chair broken.’ So she would get the same attention.

While women have made great strides in combating misogyny and discrimination since the early 1900s, there’s still a lot of work to be done, Mouck said.

A leaked draft opinion document showing the possibility of the US Supreme Court voting to strike down abortion rights is proof that the fight is still ongoing.

“We didn’t pay attention, history is repeating itself damn well,” Mouck said. “The women in the book, they had no rights over their bodies – they worked them like mules. And here we are, we’ll get right back to that.


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