Face, A Memoir
by Marcia Meier
Publisher: Saddle Road Press (January 12, 2021)
Paperback: 198 pages
To Order: Barnes & Noble
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Face is an unforgettable story of childhood trauma and abuse, identity, and faith.
At age five, Marcia Meier was hit by a car, losing the left side of her face and
eyelid. Over the next fifteen years she underwent twenty surgeries and spent days
blinded by bandages, her hands tied to the sides of her hospital bed. Scarred both
physically and emotionally, abused at school, blamed and rejected by her mother,
Marcia survived and went on to create a successful life as a journalist, a wife
and mother. But at midlife her controlled world began to fall apart, and Marcia
began a journey into the darkness of her past, her true identity, her deepest
beliefs — a spiritual and emotional exploration that resulted in the creation of
... a beautifully rendered examination of the long-term impact of childhood trauma.
Meier's journey of recovery and growth is testimony to her strength of spirit, and
her story will inspire every reader."
—Hope Edelman, author of Motherless Daughters, The Possibility of Everything, and
The AfterGrief, Finding Your Way Along the Long Arc of Loss.
... achingly, courageously explores the complex legacy of a terrible trauma to her
face and her psyche at the age of five. In each page of this gripping story, Meier
lifts from dark places of deep hurt multiple shards of emotion-charged memory, and,
turning their facets in the healing light of contemplation, investigation, and
imagination, she offers readers the benefit of her soul work: the transformation
of rage and suffering into love and compassion.
—Christine Hale, author of A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Meditations
[After] a childhood and adolescence of ... reckoning with "the Marcia I lost"...
as an adult she learned how it matters to know your "essence face" on the way to
gaining openness and honesty and self-acceptance. This memorable account draws you
into the story of how traumatic memory is not merely a long look into a mirror, but
around the mirror and beyond.
—Kevin McIlvoy, author of One Kind Favor, At the Gate of All Wonder, 57 Octaves
Below Middle C, others.
"When a memoir — "Face", by Marcia Meier — is both harrowing and life-
affirming, it will draw you into its story with a grip as fierce and strong as a
hurricane. To literally lose your face, the image you project to the world that
tells us who you are, and then have to rebuild both the physical face and the
person it represents over a dozen years and countless painful, humiliating, and
terrible operations, is an almost bottomless well of suffering, endurance, and
ultimately, redemption. "Face" is a gut-wrenching and brave plumbing into a girl's
heart and soul, and a triumph of guts and the human spirit."
—Jerry Freedman, NYT bestselling author of The Deer Killer and other novels.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Marcia Meier is an award-winning writer, developmental book editor, writing coach,
and publisher of Weeping Willow Books. She is the author of six books, including
Face, A Memoir, published by Saddle Road Press. A newspaper journalist for nearly
20 years, she has freelanced or written for the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle
Times, Arizona Republic, The Writer magazine, Santa Barbara Magazine, The Huffington
Post and Thrive Global, among many other publications. She holds a bachelor's degree
in journalism and an MFA in creative writing.
FROM THE BOOK:
Excerpt from Face, A Memoir
A Final Suture
June 24, 1976 - Surgeon's notes: Resection and repair of the triangular scar below lower lip.
Placement of a surgical steel suture in the upper left cheekbone to hold skin and reduce cheek
I was done. That's what I told my parents after that last surgery. I never wanted any of the
surgeries, but I did what my parents told me. And so, after we moved to Santa Barbara,
California, they consulted a surgeon there. It may even have been at my hometown surgeon
Dr. Kislov's encouragement. They didn't tell me. They didn't ask me my opinion on any of it.
That last surgery actually led to my looking far more normal. The surgical steel suture still
holds my left cheek up so that it matches my right cheek. It's tender, even after all these
years, but it works. The surgeon excised the jagged triangle of scar tissue from my lower lip,
and told me not to smile or stretch it in the days following surgery. But friends came by to
visit and we laughed and laughed. The next week, when the surgeon peeled back the dressing
and looked, the new lip scar was stretched, ruined.
She was angry, but I didn't care.
Only two times I disregarded my surgeon's instructions. When I stood and jumped in my crib
after Dr. Kislov told me to lie quietly, and I had to suffer the humiliation of being blinded
once again with bandages. And in California, when I didn't care that the new scar on my lip
stretched by laughter.
There were many more times I wanted to disobey, but was too young, or too afraid, or too
powerless to do so. I was raised to respect authority, but I was desperate to have some small
smidgen of control. In a way I was saying to my parents and the surgeons: I don't care; I have
the final say; I get to determine my destiny, my looks, my life.
I wanted control, and I took it, even if it meant sabotaging myself.
Now, my mother comes to me in fragments. Or as an extension of my father. But never as
a whole person. Only a disembodied voice, or a hand reaching through the crib bars. Then
retribution for some slight, a sharp paddle on my backside, or a swift jerk on my arm, or
disdainful look. She comes to me as silence. Rejection.
I did not see it until my dad died. I was forty-three, and suddenly all her coldness flooded
in with overwhelming clarity. I had thought she was lonely. Over time, I realized she had
been that way … with me.
But I could not allow myself to see it, could not believe it. So I dismissed —
ized — my experience of her.
All those years, after all, I had my dad.
No one else acknowledged her distance, her coldness with me, so I must not be
I could not trust myself, anyway. If I was afraid, they had all said, "There's nothing to be afraid
of." If it hurt, they had all said, "It doesn't hurt that much." If I cried, they had all said,
nothing to cry about." So why would I put credence in what my own eyes, my own
I shut away the hostility, the harshness, the emotional withdrawal, the anger she directed
The inexplicable dislike.
My earliest memories I locked away in a place called Sadness. Then I made up a different
story to cling to.
I am good at making up stories. I've made a career of it. But there are some things I know
intuitively. Like the fact that I was walking home from my friend's house when I was hit by
car. My mother had a different belief, which I have honored in the retelling at the begin-
this book, primarily because that was the story I was told. When I asked her much
sister remembered a third scenario: that I was walking in another part of the inter-
My body tells me the truth. My shoulder tells me the car hit me from the right side, which
means I was coming home from the other side of the street. I have no doubts.
Of course, I was traumatized, and trauma alters one's reality. Throughout the writing of this
memoir, I have been surprised to discover that something I believed in my deepest soul may
not have been true. How often do we trust our memories, and find that we didn't know the
of it after all?
But all these years later, I only trust in the one thing that recorded the trauma ‐ my cells,
my body — and realize that while I may not know the "facts," I know the truth.
Not long ago I was unpacking several boxes of photo albums that had been in storage
we sold our house in Santa Barbara. As I was sorting through the photos, I came across one
of my mother taken in Grass Valley, right after I got my second newspaper job. It was 1979.
Mom had come to help me settle into the little house I rented for my dog Chelsea and me.
In the image she is sitting on the front steps with her arms around the dog, wearing jeans and
a sweater shawl, her dark hair short and curly. Her petite figure is trim, and there is a wide
smile on her face. She was fifty-four in the photo, just two years younger than I am at this
writing. It struck me, then, how much I look like her today. More than either of my sisters.
faces have the same roundness, the same deep brown eyes and brows, the same nose,
the same smile.
I sat and stared at the photo for a long time, my throat tightening with regret.
I started to
After Dad died, Mom and I occasionally went to the cemetery, and always on Memorial
Day. I would clip flowers from the garden white iceberg roses, jasmine, lavender, calla lilies,
some green ferns carefully placing them in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel to keep them
fresh for the drive.
Dad's chamber in the mausoleum is high up on the wall, perhaps ten feet up, so you have to
crane your neck to read his name and the inscription Mom chose: Dancing Together Forever.
After placing the flowers next to his name with a tall pole, I would sit down with Mom on the
low wall in the middle of the courtyard. A pall would fall over us as we peered up at the plaque.
Sometimes, one of us would say, "I miss him." And the other would nod. A few tears would fall.
After ten minutes or so, Mom would say, "Okay, let's go."
We'd drive home in suffocating silence.
Now, when I go to the cemetery, I visit both of them. I take white roses and jasmine and
lavender and ferns, and I sit on the low wall and think about grief, and blame, and love, and
I often think about my dad. How much I miss him. How much I wish he could have been
here these past years to give me his advice, his love, his support. With my mom, he would have
said, "She loves you." And maybe from his perspective that would be true. With the conference,
he would have very early on said, "Don't buy it; it's too risky." With John, he would have said,
"You made a commitment, stick with it." And all of those things were the opposite of what I
wanted and needed to hear.
I think about my mom, about her lost babies. I think about the surgeries. Dr. Kislov's
face bathed in operating room light. My hands tied to hospital bed rails.
I think about standing
by my desk biting into my plastic book bag and spitting it the
pieces into the bag. About the
dark, wet wool-scented cloakroom. I think about the words in my
"We never thought we'd see the day you were married."
"When you're thirty-five I'll give you a facelift and you'll be beautiful."
"We told you never to cross the street without looking."
I lie down on the floor at Michael's. Like the day I sat on the storage room cement, and when
I sat on the floor to look at the old photographs, I need the stability of the ground below
Mountains of grief swell inside. I let the sadness flood through me. Feel the welling emotion
in my back and chest. Tears flow down my cheeks and throat and pool on the floor below my
Finally, I whisper to my mother: "Take it back. Take it back. Your grief is yours to carry,
not mine. I have my own to bear."
And the deep penetrating ache in my lower back vanishes.
(Face, A Memoir is available from major booksellers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Bookshop,
can be ordered from any bookstore. Please consider supporting your local independent.)
Marcia is doing a Zoom-based panel discussion, "What Makes a Compelling Memoir,”
on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2 p.m. Mountain (4 p.m Eastern and 1 p.m. Pacific), with two other
Saddle Road Press authors. The zoom link is:
Meeting ID: 896 6103 4605