Technology journalist Hafner’s (A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano, 2008, etc.) one-year "experiment in multigenerational living,” which forced her to confront her past and understand its impact on her present.
After her 84-year-old companion unraveled, the author’s mother, Helen, made it clear she wanted to live with her daughter and granddaughter, Zoë. Thinking that she and her mother were “as close to the mother-daughter ideal as could be,” Hafner agreed and rented a house in San Francisco where all three women could cohabitate. It was only when they all came together under one roof that she realized she had totally misjudged the situation. In a narrative that skillfully moves between her present predicament and her difficult childhood, Hafner offers a compelling portrait of her remarkable mother and their troubled relationship. Helen was the product of two brilliant but narcissistic parents who grew into a woman hungry for attention. When Hafner’s father didn’t give it to her, she had ill-concealed affairs, which led to divorce. Then Hafner and her sister Sarah watched as her mother “ricocheted between involvements with various men,” drowned herself in alcohol and lost custody of her daughters. The “lucky one” in her family, Hafner eventually found true love. But when her husband died suddenly, she and Zoë, who was the first to sense “the emotional energy of unfinished business” that tied the author to her mother, became traumatized. Desperate to bring peace to a feuding household, Hafner engaged the services of a family therapist, and their sessions revealed the extent to which both she and her mother denied the reality of their situation. It would only be after Sarah’s sudden death, however, that both women would finally solidify the bonds they had forged anew in the painful fire of truth.
Heartbreakingly honest, yet not without hope and flashes of wry humor.