Inheritance From Mother opens with two middle-aged sisters rejoicing on the death of their mother — not because their mother was in great pain, and not because of the inheritance of the title, but because their mother was a difficult woman who treated them badly, especially the younger one, and they are finally free of her demands and manipulations. The story, first published in installments in a newspaper, unspools in a steady rhythm, focused on the younger sister who finds herself quitting her job and divorcing her philandering husband at the same time. It’s both an engrossing portrait of a woman who reflects on her life and a universal story of duty versus individual choice. A wonderful book, and not as melancholic as one would think from the subject matter.
Tag Archives: daughters
Some books are so good that you stay up all night to finish them. With others, like A Gentleman in Moscow, you want to ration yourself so they never end. The unpromising theme of the novel is the assignment to residence in a luxury hotel by the Bolsheviks of a Russian aristocrat — for decades. And yet, within the walls of the single building, the author transports us and the hero not just through Proustian remembrances of things passed, but new adventures in waitressing and even raising an adoptive daughter, all under the watchful eyes of the police and the wicked manager. There is communist intrigue, of course, but also plenty of love, lilacs, and good food. The ending may be a little too fanciful for my taste but what a delightful ride.
Perhaps Wendy Lesser has a point. There are lots of books that are, well, mediocre. Exhibit A: After Her, which strains to recreate the frisson of a (real) serial killer’s spree, although to be fair it paints a sweet picture of a loving detective-father’s relationship with his daughters. The plucky heroine could not save it for me. I recommend Labor Day instead (the book).
The Girl Who Fell to Earth: A Memoir may be the ultimate culture-straddling story of a childhood spent partly in rural Washington state, with the author’s mother and partly in Qatar, with her father and his extended family. The nuanced descriptions of Qatari (or, more precisely in this case, Beduin) society, where women’s freedoms are severely circumscribed but arrangements can be made, and girls’ lives are remarkably free, were to me the best part of the book. In the second half, the author grows into a self-obsessed teenager and the tone and contents become both insipid and strident, unfortunately, but not before she manages a funny description of the cliques in the international high school in Doha.
A delightful, understated novel, Mice is a story of school bullying cured by… murder! Its ambitions are modest and amply met. I don’t want to give away too much of the story but if you like British novels about quiet small towns with a mix of Agatha Christie detective work, this book is for you. A lovely, carefully exact narrative told in a sixteen year old’s voice.
Do all books about Tasmania have to include search and rescue teams in a spectacular physical setting (see Death of a River Guide)? The crisis of The World Beneath takes place on the Cradle Mountain trail rather than the Franklin River (but the parents of the heroine met during environmental protests on, you guessed it, the Franklin River). 15-year old Sophie is hiking with her heretofore estranged father who proceeds to get them lost, hence the search and rescue ending. The hippie mother, meanwhile, is trying to reinvent herself and worries, as she should, about her daughter and her irresponsible ex-husband. I found the relationship between the daughter and both parents very nicely told — until late in the story, when that 15-year old behaves with a strength and purpose that seems hard to believe in someone so young. The scenery is awesome and, at least for the portions of the trail that I know, felt absolutely faithful to the real thing, down to the boardwalk that is the first part of the trail.
So what didn’t work so well for me? That uber worldly 15-year old, for one thing, and way too much foreshadowing.
Feeling rather inadequate with a grand total of one significant fight with my two daughters (the younger one is 14, so I suppose there’s still hope), I decided to see how the other side lives and to read You Don’t Really Know Me, a book about mother-daughter fights. I came away unimpressed. The author’s point of view is that teenagers want to differentiate themselves from their mothers and create a new relationship with them, but the examples she gave seem to suggest it’s the moms who are struggling — like the one who could not understand why her teenage daughter simply needs to be alone from time to time, or the one whose greatest goal is to be best friends with her daughter.
Come on ladies, let’s give the girls some room and let’s not hesitate to lay down the law when needed. One good fight at the right time will save hundreds down the line.