First published in 1998, the book tells the story of Elizabeth Sera and what she goes through to fit in society and give meaning to her own life. Sera is a courageous and kind woman who has so much to offer but who gets little or nothing at all in turn. She loses her mother at a young age and has to put up with a stepmother who harasses her all the time. Her father adores her but withdraws his love the moment he learns of his daughter’s pregnancy. Masaba , a boyfriend she loves so much turns his back on her because he is not ready to be a father:
“It is up to you since you are the one carrying the child. Sort out your life”.
Thus, Sera, the girl, is forced by circumstances to become a woman facing the world on her own. She starts out homeless but is able to rebuild her life and take care of her love child Mercy. That is when she meets John Bosco Kintu (JB), a man she does not love at first sight but whom she grows to like so much after he develops a close bond with her daughter.
Sera faces a difficult situation when she has to choose between JB and her daughter. JB can only marry her if she gets someone else to look after Mercy. She sacrifices her daughter to marry JB. Mercy is taken in by her friends, Mr. and Mrs. Onyango, an elderly couple who welcome her with open arms.
But JB is a selfish man. He doesn’t understand why his wife gets so emotional over the letters that her daughter writes to her. He expects Sera to take care of Joanna (JB’s child got out of wedlock), yet he rejected Mercy, his wife’s daughter. When his wife points out the contradiction, JB threatens her:
“…………your daughter does not belong to my clan. It is only wise that she be kept away from here. Joanna belongs here and if you are not willing to behave like a wife, I can replace you with Joanna’s mother.”
Despite her efforts to save her marriage, it ends up in divorce, and she starts all over again as a single mother of two- Mercy and Marvin, her son with JB. All is going well until Mercy’s graduation, when it turns out that her boyfriend, Andrew is her father’s cousin. The world turns against Sera once more since everyone blames her for this- had she told Mercy about her father, this would not have happened. Her son runs back to his father. She is left all alone. It is Mrs. Onyango who reunites mother and daughter.
Ayeta’s Memoirs of a Mother is a good book that highlights the challenges most African women go through to be accepted in society- in many cases forfeiting their own happiness to fit in.