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Friday, November 8, 2019

Review and quotes: Mother Daughter Me

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
Th
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

The book I just finished reading (with a summary and review):

Title: Mother Daughter Me by Katie Hafner

Book Beginnings quote: (from Prologue)
My longing for her was always there. What I wanted more than anything was my mother's attention. I plotted and campaigned. I hatched plans. I pleaded. Then, just when I thought I had her, she would slip from my grasp.
Friday 56 quote:
"She's a teenager," I say quickly. Anticipating a rebuttal I have no desire to hear, I take the unusual step of cutting my mother off. "Mom, you have never raised a teenager." We're both a little stunned as we take in the implications of what I've said. Then she looks me squarely in the eye. "You're right."
Summary: The author, Katie Hafner, decides to move her mother in to live with she and her daughter after the mother's long-time boyfriend is moved into a care facility. The only problem is that Ms. Hafner and her mother haven't really lived together since Hafner was ten and she removed from the mother's home due to neglect brought on by alcoholism. When the move goes smoothly Hafner rejoices that she will finally have the relationship with her mother that she has always wanted. But it doesn't take long from this notion to be dispelled. Hafner's daughter and mother are at odds almost immediately and the author has to admit that she has latent feelings of anger left over from a childhood of neglect. The book probes the depths of their family life and looks forward to a future that neither one predicted.

Review: Mother Daughter Me is a memoir written by Hafner in real time as her mother moves in and as they try to navigate living together after a lifetime of pain and neglect. Hafner, who used to write for the New York Times, is a good writer and I felt pulled into her world immediately. I cheered on their efforts to make things work out but wasn't surprised when they called the new living arrangement quits before the first year was out. I kept thinking about the Stevenson quote, "Are we the sum total of our worst acts?" Hafner's mother was a horrible, neglectful, alcoholic when Hafner was young. When she finally got clean and sober, Hafner was grown and living on her own. Yet, Hafner and her older sister could not quite get rid of their past memories and to some degree want to punish their mother for what was. The mother's reaction to her daughter's nonverbal cues, that she was still a screw-up, were predictable. 

I am not sure I would have read this book if it weren't a book club selection. That said, I know we will have a lot to talk about at the club meeting. One of the questions I hope to probe is the notion of care. When people aren't good parents to their children isn't it natural that these children don't want to care for their parents in old age? I also want to discuss the deleterious effects on children of divorce. When Hafner reads a book on this subject she finally finds some of the answers she has been seeking. The last question I hope gets asked is how might the writing of this book helped or hurt the new relationship between mother and daughter. As I read I kept wondering how Hafner could remember conversations and feelings about current events so clearly. Then at the end of the book, she reveals that she started writing it before the mother moved in with them. Her publisher thought it would make for an interesting book---the melding of three generations under one roof. Though not a favorite book, I think it has a lot to say about our relationship with our parents and how those relationships change, and should change, as we age.

SOTH book club, November selection
Nonfiction November selection




10 comments:

  1. I haven't heard of Mother Daughter Me. It does seem like an interesting read.

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  2. A thoughtful review, Anne, on relationships that are often fraught with tension and disappointment. As you say, I'm sure it will lead to an interesting book club discussion.

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    1. Yes, I hope our book club discussion goes well. One never knows what reading books like this will uncover.

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  3. I think it's difficult to live with adult children or our parents because we have our own lives, routines and schedules which often don't mesh. The history behind their family would make it even more untenable. Good for them for trying though. I'm sure they all learned a lot in the process, painful though it was.

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    1. I can't even imagine living with my mom and I didn't have a negative childhood with her...beyond normal stuff, I mean.

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  4. Sounds like a thought-provoking work. Hope you enjoy your bookclub discussion on it.

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  5. Sounds like an emotional read!! Happy weekend!

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  6. I think we all cling to how relationships were when we were young even if, as adults, we know things can change. I share a house with my daughter and my parents and know there are times when I revert.

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  7. Very intriguing. Not my normal choice, but I may want to give it a shot.

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