April 2011

The secrets among women

By Rae Meadows
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The women of Rae Meadows’ Mothers and Daughters are stronger than they think. Over three generations, they tell stories of abortion, assisted suicide, cancer and a journey on an orphan train. The love they’ve felt for their mothers has flattened and reformed them, whether that love was warranted or not.

Sam has difficulty returning to work after having her daughter and losing her mother in the same year. After she receives a box of her mother’s that contains photographs, a worn Bible with “Children’s Aid Society” stamped in the corner, recipes in her grandmother’s handwriting and a coaster from a Chicago restaurant, Sam investigates these ciphers and wonders how they will change what she knows of herself and her family.

In another story, her mother, Iris, decides it's time for a move to tranquil Sanibel after a difficult divorce, where she has a grand affair with a married man while slowly deteriorating from cancer. Iris’ mother, Violet, had a hard-knock life on New York streets with an opium-addicted mother, who sent her on a train to find a new life in the Midwest. Her mother later tries to track her down, but there’s no record of Violet—demonstrating that some secrets are shared between mothers and daughters while others die with the woman herself.

Family history is either handed down through stories and letters or it’s locked away—for safekeeping or to be forgotten. Mothers and Daughters, a book you’ll want to sit and read straight through, isn’t light. It confronts real fights of love and bouts of loneliness. It shows poverty of the pocket and of the soul. The choices these mothers make and the things they ask of their daughters have effects that touch generations to follow. It will have you considering your own choices and those of your mother: What has she chosen not to tell you? What happened before you? What do you want to know?

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