Category Archives: Mothers


Last Friday, Jan 14th, Shelf Awareness reviewed the new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua and called it one of the growing genre of “momoirs,” memoirs about motherhood. It made me think about the other side–memoirs written about mothers, also a huge genre. Mothers loom large in our lives, so I began to think about what titles I would put on a short list of compelling mother-focused memoirs. These are older titles that bear reading in any year:
Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’
Vivian Gornick’s Fierce Attachments
James McBride’s The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother
Jackie Lyden’s Daughter of the Queen of Sheba
John McGahern’s All Will Be Well
Terry Ryan’s The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
Mary Gordon’s Circling My Mother

Penelope Lively

Family Album by Penelope Lively
Lively has been one of my favorite authors through the years; she never disappoints me with her stories of the emotional turmoil  at the heart of her characters’ relationships. The family in question here is the Harpers, 6 children, two parents, and the au pair who stays on after the children are grown. Their large Edwardian house, Allersmead, is meant to be the gracious center of a warm and loving family, but harbors a shocking secret and painful heartaches. Lively shifts the point of view from one character to another and we get to know them all quite well. There’s no plot to speak of, just the rubbing together of a set of complex personalities,  which is quite engrossing enough.