The Habit by Susan Morse

by Stacia Friedman

When Susan Morse started keeping a journal about caring for her highly eccentric mother, she wasn’t planning to publish a book. She just wanted to keep her sanity.

A former film and television actress, Morse moved from Los Angeles back to her hometown of Chestnut Hill in 1994, not knowing it would thrust her into the most demanding role of her life. Mother Brigid, as her mother now demanded to be called, had changed religion six times, finally becoming an Orthodox Christian nun at an age when most women take up Bingo, not the veil.

Lucky for us, Morse kept a notebook of her rollercoaster relationship with her admittedly kooky mother, resulting in her hilarious, poignant memoir.

On Wednesday, Jan. 16, Morse will read from The Habit at the Chestnut Hill Hotel and talk about the challenges of being a member of the Sandwich Generation, caring simultaneously for rambunctious teenagers and a terminally ill mother while juggling a career and marriage. Morse spent most of her childhood in Chestnut Hill then moved to New York to pursue an acting career.

While tending bar in Hell’s kitchen, an obligatory job for most aspiring actors, she met her husband David and followed him to Los Angeles. While David’s star rose as an actor in stage, film and television recurrent roles on “House” and currently HBO’s “Treme” Susan found small parts in movies and TV series, including “Murphy Brown” and “The Twilight Zone.”

When the 1994 Northridge earthquake hit and their Los Angeles house was destroyed, Susan and David and their three children moved to Chestnut Hill. Susan stopped acting and started editing books, having no ideathat she would end up writing one – least of all, a book about her relationship with her strong-willed mother who, over the years, embraced Roman Catholicism, astrology, transcendental meditation, Silva Mind Control, vitamins and Reiki.

Susan Morse’s reading is part of the ongoing monthly Literary Salon hosted by Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment. A wine and cheese reception will follow. Admission is $10 in advance; $12 at the door. Dine at the Chestnut Grill and receive 10% discount on food.

Tickets available at www.chEnrichment.org or 215-248-0180.