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A Memoir

by Alyse Myers

Pub Date: May 6th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4165-4305-3
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

A New York Times executive chronicles her dysfunctional relationship with her mother.

The death of her beloved, somewhat feckless father when she was 11 brought an end to her parents’ shouting matches, but without him as a buffer, the animosity increased between smart, self-sufficient Myers and her short-tempered, resentful, chain-smoking mother. School and reading were the girl’s escapes from a miserable home life marked by physical violence and abusive language. In lackluster prose comprised of flat, declarative sentences, the author describes fighting constantly with her mother as a teenager. They both saw Myers as her father’s daughter, someone who did not want to grow up to be “a switchboard operator in a bra factory,” as her unambitious mother was. Thrown out of the house more than once, the author moved out for good at 18. “I was able to admit what I knew all along,” she writes. “I hated her and didn’t care if she hated me back.” Later, after Myers married, their relationship became mildly civil. When the author had a baby, she realized that her mother possessed a softer, maternal side that she had not seen before. However, her mother’s early death from lung cancer prevented the development of a closer bond. Myers’s relationship with her two younger siblings was always cool and distant, and when the three of them were sorting through their mother’s possessions, she deliberately concealed a box of old letters and photos, which she took away. Years later, when her daughter was a teenager, Myers opened the box for the first time; the discovery of its contents and significance closes the book on a contrived note.

Adds little new or memorable material to an old story.