WHAT MY MOTHER GAVE ME by Elizabeth Benedict


Thirty-One Women on the Gifts that Mattered Most
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Thirty-one essays by mothers and daughters, refracting the light of motherhood in unusual and beautiful directions.

“Every day should be Mother’s Day.” That’s what many mothers say every year, and correctly. Mothers, mamas, moms—they give more of themselves than is reasonable. “A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie,” said Tenneva Jordan, a woman famous primarily for that statement. There are entire libraries’ worth of books about mothers, which include quotations, aphorisms, devotionals and essays. This collection, edited by novelist Benedict (Almost, 2001, etc.), would likely be shelved with those many others, but it deserves a place front and center. Contributors include a mix of well-known writers (Ann Hood, Mary Gordon, Elinor Lipman, Joyce Carol Oates, Roxana Robinson, etc.) with others still on the rise. Oates writes about a quilt passed down through the years. Emma Straub chronicles a cruise gifted to her by her mother; she describes it as “the maritime version of No Exit.” Maud Newton writes about how she and her mother circle each other warily, their orbits held by a love of literature. Other contributors include Elissa Schappell, Marge Piercy, Luanne Rice, Eleanor Clift, Lisa See and Margo Jefferson, and all contribute thoughtful, unexpected and fresh takes on their mothers and daughters. “Each of the contributors,” writes Benedict in the introduction, “describes a gift from her mother—three-dimensional, experiential, a work habit, a habit of being, a way of seeing the world—that magically, movingly reveals the story of her mother and of their relationship.”

A winning collection—think of it as an extra slice of pie set aside for mom.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-61620-135-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2013


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