MOTHERLAND by Caledonia Kearns


Writings by Irish American Women About Mothers and Mothering
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Kearns (who edited Cabbage and Bones: An Anthology of Irish-American Women’s Fiction, 1997) has assembled a delightfully diverse collection of essays (old and new) and fiction about the struggles and unique joys of motherhood, written by some of America’s finest Irish-American women writers. Two dozen stellar contributors examine motherhood in all its complexity, from the stresses of pregnancy, to the challenges of raising teenagers, to functioning as a single mother or a mother-in-law, to the difficulties of growing old and letting go. What unifies this collection is the consistent excellence of its prose and its profound respect for the mothering role. In an essay suffused with self-awareness and hypnotically spare prose, Anna Quindlen describes how her mother’s death forced her to become a mature, independent woman. Doris Kearns Goodwin writes powerfully about how her mother taught her to love books and the beauty of language. In a comedic masterpiece, Jean Kerr bemoans that her adult, unmarried “children” have yet to leave the nest: “they don’t belong to anybody else yet,” so they show up unannounced for dinner, usually carrying a bag of dirty laundry. In another hilarious essay, Martha Manning describes how she accidentally killed her four-year-old daughter’s pet goldfish, forcing her to confront the sort of absurd neurosis long associated with Woody Allen. “Mother” Jones, the legendary labor organizer, writes about her mother’s unconquerable independence and how it encouraged her budding political activism. Mary Doyle Curran and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn strike similar themes of social activism triggered by a mother’s courageous example. In the most emotionally powerful contribution, novelist Mary Gordon writes with lyrical intensity about caring for her aging, senile mother. These pieces, sad and funny and always surprising, work well individually but also form a thematically satisfying whole. A thoroughly outstanding exploration of motherhood that’s sure to delight mothers, daughters, and lovers of skillfull prose, no matter their ethnic background. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-688-16565-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999