Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mothers & Daughters - Rae Meadows

Summary:   Samantha is lost in the joys of new motherhood—the softness of her eight-month-old daughter’s skin, the lovely weight of her child in her arms—but in trading her artistic dreams to care for her child, Sam worries she’s lost something of herself. And she is still mourning another loss: her mother, Iris, died just one year ago. 

When a box of Iris’s belongings arrives on Sam’s doorstep, she discovers links to pieces of her family history but is puzzled by much of the information the box contains. She learns that her grandmother Violet left New York City as an eleven-year-old girl, traveling by herself to the Midwest in search of a better life. But what was Violet’s real reason for leaving? And how could she have made that trip alone at such a tender age?

In confronting secrets from her family’s past, Sam comes to terms with deep secrets from her own. Moving back and forth in time between the stories of Sam, Violet, and Iris, Mothers and Daughters is the spellbinding tale of three remarkable women connected across a century by the complex wonder of motherhood. 
(Summary from - Image from - Book given free for review)

Disclaimer: I have writer’s block. Big time. I read this book about four weeks ago and have been sitting on this review ever since. Please don’t let the quality of my review influence your thoughts on this book. It was really good.

My Review:  Mothers & Daughters delves into the fascinating lives of three generations of women: Sam, a new mother, dealing with the anxiety leaving her infant daughter to return to her art studio; Iris, her mother, who is struggling through the final stages of her fight with breast cancer; and finally, Violet, the grandmother Sam never really knew who lived in the slums of New York City before being shipped west on an orphan train. One day, Sam receives a package filled with her late mother’s possessions and as she sifts through the box, uncovers a hidden history and reflects on the secrets buried in her own past.

Mothers & Daughters is an emotionally evocative, thought-provoking novel that explores the various phases, joys, and sorrows of the mother/daughter relationship. Each character’s story echoes throughout the others, with stunning parallels between their lives. While I didn’t always agree with some of the characters’ choices (I’m going to let them off the hook because they’re fictional), I identified with pieces of all of them – Sam’s fierce love for her daughter, Iris’s longing for solitude, and and Violet’s desperate desire for family.

My only complaint is the story ended rather abruptly. I read the last page and then turned another one, expecting more to follow.  Nothing. Whaaat?!  I was very caught up in the character’s lives (especially Violet’s) and I wanted to have several more chapters with them. Instead I was left to wonder about the rest of their story.

Rae Meadows has written a book that will resonate with most women. As I read, I considered my relationships with my three daughters, my own mother, and how my perspective shifted when I became a parent. When I was young, my mother was my mom, not a person. I couldn’t fathom her existence outside of that role. Then I grew up, became a parent, and realized that my mother had a life long before I came along – and I knew nothing about it. One of my favorite quotes from the book was:
“She wondered on some level if all mothers were cyphers to their children. She wondered if having children was a way to try and understand one’s own mother, to bridge the unknowability.  How she wished she could know her mother now.”
I think at some point in our lives, we all feel that way.  We can only hope that it's not too late.

Mothers & Daughters isn’t always an easy read, and some of the character’s experiences and choices were less than ideal, but I enjoyed the story and the feelings it inspired. I would recommend this book to most of the mothers and daughters in my life and as an intriguing book club selection.

My Rating: 4.25 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Some swearing, especially when dealing with rough characters (although not exclusively), discussion of abortion, and euthanasia.

Sum it up: An emotionally evocative and thought provoking novel.

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