Momentum: Montessori, a Life in Motion Book Review

Friends, you need to stop whatever you’re doing and go buy this book right away.  I’m not even kidding – it was that good.

E.G. Slade sent me her book Momentum: Montessori, a Life in Motion, and I really didn’t know what to expect from it.  I’ve read a lot about Maria Montessori through my Montessori training and the work that I do with parents, but I’ve never read anything like this.  Momentum is a historical fiction book told from the point of view of Maria Montessori as she writes a letter to her son while voyaging across the sea to America.  The narrative goes back and forth between describing the journey itself and then telling her son the story of her life and how she came to make some of her most difficult life decisions.  I sat down to read it just before noon on a Saturday, and I finished just before 3pm that same day because I simply couldn’t put it down.

Inspired by Montessori’s diary, Maria Montessori Sails to America, this is a tale of childhood, motherhood, and a vision for the world that brought me to tears more than once.  Slade weaves magical stories of Maria Montessori’s childhood and shows how she takes elements of it to infuse into the Montessori method – practical life work and the resulting satisfaction, noticing how her mother carried a pitcher and replicating it exactly, completing work from left to right, adults crouching down to eye level with a child.  The story is written as a letter to Montessori’s son Mario, trying to explain why she left him for so long and how changed her life is now that he is back in it.  Some of the anecdotes are fictionalized, but they read as if they absolutely must be true.  The book is a poignant reminder of how the smallest interactions we have as a child can shape our entire life’s trajectory – which is, in a nutshell, exactly what the Montessori method is all about.

Unlike a lot of other books written about Maria Montessori as the oversized persona she has become in our historical recollection, Momentum allows Maria Montessori to be a real person, ruminating on personal life choices and in the end showing a glimpse into a woman who is as relatable as she is inspiring.

A true sign of an amazing book is that it leaves you wanting more, and this one definitely did.  As soon as I finished it, I ordered a couple of the biographies and other books that Slade used as a reference for this historical fiction version, and I have been having a lot of fun matching up true stories and figuring out which ones were fictionalized in this telling.  I highly recommend Momentum: Montessori, a Life in Motion, by E.G. Slade, for anyone who enjoys historical fiction or is interested in Maria Montessori as a person.