Reading Recommendations · Mothers and Daughters
These novels explore and celebrate the enduring relationship between mothers and daughters.
The parallel stories of two African-American women of different generations are told in Alers’ absorbing novel. Morgana is in a tailspin after her mother’s death and the discovery that her husband is having an affair. While settling her mother’s estate and deciding what to do about her marriage, she finds her mother’s diaries and is surprised by what they tell about her mother’s life.
Su-Jen’s family leaves Hong Kong to settle in a town outside Toronto in Bates’ tender story of immigrant experience. Su-Jen’s half-brother arrives at the family restaurant to lift the sagging spritis of her mother in an unexpected manner. Meanwhile, Su-Jen works to fit in at school, while struggling to grasp the changes occurring in her family.
Alhough she seems to have it all, Julie Berman’s fabulous career and idyllic life in suburban New Jersey are driving her crazy. Her teenage son and daughter in college are dating the wrong people. And a young, single newspaper editor is tempting her to make some unwise decisions as well.
Ava, the American daughter of a Korean prostitute and a black G.I., works to save thousands of birds after the environmental disaster at Salton Sea, California. She also works to repair her fragile bond with her mother, whose brutally shameful past has had painful effects on their relationship all of Ava’s life.
A successful L.A. businesswoman tries to save her 18 year-old daughter who battles bipolar disorder. Trina’s illness lands her in the hospital on mandatory “72 hour holds” forcing her mother Keri to confront both the health insurance industry and Trina’s father, who denies her illness. A complex family drama that addresses the stigma of mental illness in the black community.
Chambers transports the reader to late-1970s Brooklyn for the vivid coming-of-age story of a young black girl. Angela’s mother has split. While her father tries to keep it together, Angela roller-skates to Donna Summer and debates black power, comforted and puzzled by memories of her mother. Characters ring true in situations both humorous and heartbreaking in this upbeat novel.
Hannah is living with Alzheimer’s disease. As her mind wanders from lucid present to snapshots of the past, she reveals her extraordinary journey fleeing the Nazis to her daughter and granddaughters. This brief novel, touchingly depicting how women learn from older generations, is an emotionally resonant character study told from a unique perspective.
Cat Anderson is living the good life in Atlanta with a satisfying job and great friends when her teenage daughter shakes things up. Phoebe demands more information about her absent father, compelling Cat to face the biggest lie she’s ever told. And when a business deal turns shady, she must protect the integrity of the company she’s worked so hard to build.
Twelve-year-old Denny discovers that brilliant people don’t always make the best parents, and she learns to rely on friend Maureen as a maternal stand-in after her parents’ divorce. Fast forward to Denny’s adulthood in the theater, and the result is a wise and witty look at family relationships over time. An excellent choice for readers of contemporary fiction.
Rakhi is an artist living in California, struggling to keep her business afloat and raise her daughter. Always curious about her family’s past in India, Rakhi discovers the journals her mother kept as a dream interpreter, and begins to learn about her mother’s identity and her own. The novel shifts from the present to flashbacks and journal passages in mysterious, dream-like rhythms.
First-novelist Duncan tells a story of three generations of Southern women-a divorced mill worker, her pregnant teen daughter, and her aging mother with dementia-and how they find peace with each other and with their changing lives. The book’s appeal lies in its beautifully rendered Southern voice, flawlessly pitched and paced.
Writer Iris Greenfeld takes a job as the manager of the Catskills hotel where her mother, fifty years before, worked as a maid and wrote novels in the off season. While Iris writes about her mother and looks for her mother’s lost manuscript, a handsome student/ex-con enters the picture. The result is a romantic mystery with a literary twist.
A single mother and former radical is drawn abruptly back into political protest when she receives word that her daughter, a student at Trinity College in Dublin, is engaged in a hunger strike and has chained herself to a flagpole outside the American Embassy. Mary Gordon offers a moving novel of the mother-daughter bond, politics, protest, and art.
Fans of Jane Heller know to expect laughs, outlandish romance, and fun in this warm-hearted tale of mother-daughter rivalry and reconciliation. Stacey Reiser moves to Hollyood with big plans for a better life. But through a series of unlikely events, her mom, Helen, ends up in Hollywood, too, and it’s Helen who gets the big break and all the attention.
In the small Virginia town of Three Chimneys, one woman has given birth to eleven babies and another is part of a publicity stunt involving an enormous wheel of cheese. Despite these oddities, everyday life rings through in Holman’s triumphant novel: for Margaret, everyday life means saving the family farm and saving her teen daughter from herself.
Even after her death, Mama Wong manages to shake up the lives of her son’s Chinese-American family, having never approved of his marriage to a white woman. She sends a Chinese relative to America to be the children's nanny-and maybe her son’s “love wife.” Characters speak directly to the reader as they compete to tell this colorful family history.
Lily Owen and Rosaleen, the housekeeper who raised her, leave town in 1964 to save Rosaleen from violent arrest for trying to register to vote. The fugitives find an unusual new home with a trio of beekeeping sisters, from whom Lily learns important lessons about race, family, and womanhood. Kidd’s novel is an engaging, poignant coming-of-age story with wide appeal.
In a novel that is alternately funny and sad, outlandish and sweet, Kirshenbaum tells the story of Valentine Kessler, a Jewish teenager fascinated with the Madonna—and with her math teacher. The crush on her teacher changes her life. The memorable characters of Valentine, her mother, and her mother’s friends carry this story of family, friendship, and teen angst, set in 1970s Brooklyn.
Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Cooper is pregnant when she’s dumped by her boyfriend. Her divorced mom, Karen, is thirty-three and sees Charlotte’s prospects fading, as hers faded when she was a pregnant teen. Grandma Nan is suddenly, seriously forgetful. This bestseller in the U.K. introduces three spirited women negotiating the stages of motherhood.
Twenty-seven years after adopting a baby girl in Ireland, Lena Malloy is surprised by a call from the nun who made the arrangements. Mary, Lena’s daughter, is now a noted opera singer. Lena travels to Ireland to trace Mary’s birth parents and discover lineage of her marvelous vocal gift, but she uncovers a troubling secret that could tear apart her family.
Devi has never lived up to her immigrant family’s expectations. Losing her job is the last straw, and she attempts suicide. But her difficult mother rescues her and insists she move back home. Though she refuses to speak, Devi begins to heal by cooking for the family. The novel is a frank and warm-hearted look at the family life, traditions, and cuisine of Indian-Americans.
After a furious argument, Wendy leaves for school and her mother leaves for work at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Her mother never comes back. Wendy moves to California to live with her birth father, and through drastic life changes learns to face her loss. A great read for both adults and teens.
Camilla has left her troubled youth behind. She is married with a young daughter and a successful career. But when she finds a lump in her breast, she is forced to confront her family history, and she learns that her cancer is not her only inheritance from the women of her family. McFadden has written an intense story of a black woman striving to forge an identity for herself and her daughter.
Evelyn Bucknow has had more than her fair share of hard knocks. She and her mother (a young single mom who needs some mothering, too) barely scrape by. But Evelyn shines-and her mom rises to the occasion, too-as Evelyn grows up and reaches for a life beyond the margins of her little Kansas town. This debut novel is a delightful story about an indomitable young character.
Reta Winters is a Canadian writer whose daughter has inexplicably left the university to sit on a streetcorner silently holding a sign that says “goodness.” To her anguish, Reta doesn’t know what has caused this despairing protest. Reta’s grief for her daughter, her own challenges writing about a female character, and the strong feminist argument that all daughters are in danger of being lost will draw readers to this wonderfully subtle character study.
In 1970, Angela Edwards leaves sleepy Tulsa for the bright lights of Los Angeles, where Blaxploitation is the hot trend and breaking into the business demands compromises. Years later, it is Angela’s passion for film that provides a connection to the women of her family in this stylish, multigenerational story of black women revealing secret pasts.
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