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10 books that explore mother-daughter relationship

Tanvi Dubey
10th Jul 2016
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One of the most cherished relationships in life is that that a woman shares with her mother. Mothers are the early role models we have in the house. They are also our friends as we grow up. Here are ten books that explore the dynamics of the mother-daughter relationship and reflect some of our own bonds or connections with our mothers.

1) The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Published in 1989, Amy Tan’s novel is about a group of immigrant Chinese women and their American-born daughters. In the book, the women first meet at a church in San Francisco, and agree to continue to meet to play mah jong, a popular Chinese game. They call their mah jong group the Joy Luck Club. The set of 16 interlinked stories revolve around the women of the Joy Luck Club.

The book beautifully explores the relationship of each of these women with their daughters. It is about the disagreements and fights between mothers and daughters and also about love and forgiveness.

2) Beloved by Toni Morrison

Published in 1987, this one fetched Toni Morrison a Pulitzer Prize. It has also been featured in the ‘Best Books of the Century’ lists. It was also adapted into a movie in 1998 starring Oprah Winfrey.

The story though not a happy one gained immense popularity. It revolves around Sethe, a slave who killed her young daughter so as to save her from years of slavery. Many years later, Sethe is free from slavery. This is the time when a mysterious woman comes to live with Sethe and she is convinced that the woman is the ghost of her murdered child.

The book received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988, as well as the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award, the Melcher Book Award, the Lyndhurst Foundation Award, and the Elmer Holmes Bobst Award.

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3) A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir

Translated from the French by Patrick O’Brian, this book was published in 1985. Simone de Beauvoir who wrote The Second Sex, a feminist masterpiece, produced another winner in this one.

Chronicling her mother’s final days, Simone reflects on their mother-daughter relationship and the imminence of death. Simone captures human experience, suffering, hospitalisation and the witnessing of death. She also writes about her difficult mother with great honesty and empathy.

4) Anywhere But Here by Mona Simpson

Published in 1987, this book was also adapted into a movie starring Natalie Portman and Susan Sarandon.

The novel explores Ann, a teenager and Adele, her mother, and the latter’s delusional dreams of making her daughter a star. Following this dream, the duo moves to Los Angeles from Wisconsin, and struggles ensue. While Adele finds it difficult to make ends meet, Ann has no interest in Hollywood. It portrays the resentment the daughter has for her mother, but still loves her despite that.

5) For You, Mom, Finally by Ruth Reichl

Ruth has been a restaurant critic with the New York Times and knows and understands food. Her first book, Tender at the Bone, is about her affair with cooking. In the book, she shares anecdotes about her mother, who was a terrible cook.

For You, Mom, though, is completely about her mother. The book explores the complicated relationship she had with her mom. After reading her mother’s letters and diaries she also comes to terms with her deceased mother’s lifelong unhappiness.

6) Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Published in 2013, this debut novel explores a single mother, Kate Baron’s, journey to reconstruct her daughter’s life based on her emails, texts, and social media to discover the truth about the last days of her life. Kate is stunned when her daughter’s private school calls her to inform her that her 15-year-old daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.

When Kate reaches the school, she gets the news that her daughter had committed suicide, out of guilt. She is heart broken and shattered by grief till she gets a note, which says that – “She did not jump.”

This gets her to reconstruct her life to discover the truth behind her daughter’s death.

7) White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Published in 1999, by American author Janet Fitch, White Oleander was also made into a movie in 2002. The book is about Astrid and her mother, Ingrid. Astrid’s life changes after her poet mother goes to prison for killing a man that she was involved with and who was cheating her. Astrid is bounced from one foster home to another, until she realises that her testimony could be the source of her mother’s freedom from prison.

8) Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum 

Published in 2004, this book explores the life of a mother and her daughter who had escaped Germany during the World War II. Anna Schlemmer and her daughter, Trudy were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. For the past 50 years Anna has refused to talk about her life in Germany.

Trudy who is a professor of German history, driven by guilt of her heritage decides to explore her mother’s past. She has a picture as evidence, a family portrait showing her mother, Trudy and a Nazi officer, the Oberstumfuhrer. Trudy unearths the heartbreaking truth of her mother’s past.

9) The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty

Published in 2003, Laura’s debut novel explores Evelyn’s attempts to make sense of the world around her. Evelyn finds herself in the center of everything – a life in Kansas with family and friends where her single mother who is often out of work is dating a married man.

Evelyn has learnt to fend for herself early on in life. The novel explores her own relationship with her mother, her being an adult and everything that is happening in her mother’s life.

10) Where We Belong by Emily Griffin

Published in 2012, the novel explores the life of Marian who was happy and settled in her life. One fine day, things change, when Kirby Rose, the child she gave up 18 years ago appears on her doorstep.

The novel explores how the dynamics of the mother and daughter play out, how secrets have a way of resurfacing and how our choices follow us forever.

Whether you are mother, a grandmother or a daughter, these books will leave an impact and probably get you thinking about your own unique relationship with your mother or daughter.

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