Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mothers & Daughters by Rae Meadows

Mothers and Daughters: A Novel
Title:  Mothers & Daughters
Author:  Rae Meadows
Publisher:  Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date:  March 29, 2011
Format:  Hardcover, 272 pages
Age Group:  Adult

Mothers & Daughters tells the story of three generations of women.  Samantha is a new mother who no longer has her mother Iris to guide her.  Iris reflects back on her life as cancer ravages her body.  Violet leaves her mother at eleven years old and begins a new life on her own.  Each woman holds secrets that the others will never know.

If I were to base my enjoyment of this book simply on the publisher's description I would have been sorely disappointed.  The novel that I read bears little resemblance to the blurb on the back cover.  The back cover states "When a box of Iris's belongings arrives on Sam's doorstep, she discovers things about her mother she never knew -- or could even guess.  But she is puzzled by much of what she finds.  She learns that Violet, the woman she knows as her grandmother, left New York City as an eleven-year-old girl and found a better life in the Midwest.  But what was the real reason behind Violet's journey?  And how could she come that far on her own at such a tender age?"  While it is true that a box of her mother's things does arrive on Sam's doorstep and that she is puzzled by what she finds, she does not find any of the answers hinted at in the description.  As the reader, I learned Violet's story of travel on the orphan train but Samantha does not actually learn for certain that Violet was in New York City.  In fact, Samantha spends very little time looking through the things in the box.

With all that said, I did enjoy the majority of this novel.  Each chapter focused on a different woman which meant that time was very fluid.  For the most part the time shifts were easy to follow, although there were a couple of overlaps between Samantha and Iris that found confusing.  Even within a chapter, time is fluid as the main characters move through their memories as well as current events.

I connected to Samantha instantly as she struggled with being a new mother and leaving her child with someone else for the first time.  So much of what she was feeling was familiar to me.  The struggles of Iris and Violet were much less familiar but no less moving.  As compelling as the stores were, I was unsatisfied when I reached the end.  Violet and Iris's stories reach the expected conclusion but Samantha's story simply ends abruptly.  It is clear that Samantha has some major realization at the end of her story but I am uncertain how it impacts her view of life going forward.

I received an Advance Reader's Edition of Mothers & Daughters from the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

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