Much of what happened to our family can be traced to my mother’s dreams.

My memoir—forthcoming in the foreseeable, so help me—tells the story of my impossible relationship with my dazzling, determined, dangerous mother.

My mother, 21 years old. Her surgeons at SickKids were all in love with her, she told me.

Paralyzed by polio when she was eight, infatuated with her charismatic father, Mother’s dreams not only shattered every connection that should have been important to her, but sealed me off from my own dad.

When her letter arrives to say she is dying, come quickly, I must decide: is she pulling a familiar ruse to bend me to her will? Seven years into an estrangement with my parents, I am happy and secure in my tranquil life with my husband in our country home east of Toronto.

Feeling the pressure of an only child’s obligation to aging and disabled parents, I make the three-hour drive west to their home in London, Ontario.

What happens next drops me into a search for belonging that makes stopovers at such places as love letters in an old metal treasure chest, confessions in diaries, and conversations that beam light into dark places.

Hope, meanwhile, twirls around me, adorned with ribbons and frou-frou accessories, doused with Parisian scent. But just as I begin to believe in the possibility of a kind of love, against all odds, Hope’s bright yellow skirt vanishes around a corner.

Hope, it turns out, is a tyrant, and some relationships cannot be fixed.

And yet, healing is still possible. It all depends on who holds the key to the door marked “Discovery.”