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Book Review: “Dog Flowers: A Memoir”

Stack of Books | Photo by Kayli Thompson | The Wright State Guardian

“Dog Flowers: A Memoir” by Danielle Geller tells the story of Danielle on her return to her mother’s home at the Navajo reservation. Here she confronts her family’s troubled history and retraces her mother’s life—using both narrative and archive in this unforgettable and heart-wrenching memoir about family trauma and the pain of loss. 

The plot 

After Danielle Geller’s mother dies of a withdrawal from alcohol during a period of homelessness, she collects her mother’s documents, diaries and photographs into a single suitcase and begins a journey of discovering her family’s history and the decisions she has been forced to make, a journey that will end at her mother’s home: the Navajo reservation.

Using her training as a librarian and archivist, Geller shares photographs from her mother and sisters, and her mother’s many boyfriends along with holiday cards that Geller and her sister had sent to her mother over the years. 

Leading up to this mission, Geller also takes readers back to the tumultuous relationship she had with her mentally ill father, the strained relationship with her sister who seemed to follow the same steps as their parents and Geller’s own declining mental health as she is admitted into the hospital and diagnosed with anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.

Adopted by her grandmother at a young age, she travels between Florida, Pennsylvania and Boston throughout her life, with sporadic visits from her abusive father and elusive mother.  

Feeling disconnected from her Navajo heritage, she decides to learn more about her absent mother by tracking down their family and discovering who she is. Through connecting with lost family members and learning more about her mother, she pieces together an image of her mother in this extremely emotional and personal journey. 

A word from the author 

“…I’m writing about (how) I feel possessed. I feel haunted by her life as much as her death, and the things that I wanted from that relationship that I didn’t get,” said Geller in an interview with High Country News. 

Geller’s moving and beautiful writing coupled with archival documents create this incredible journey of loss, family, traditions, heritage, the family we are given and the family we choose. 

“Dog Flowers” will be released on Jan 12, 2021, everywhere books are sold.

Ariel Parker

Contributing Writer