THE WOMAN WHO GAVE BIRTH TO HER MOTHER by Kim Chernin

THE WOMAN WHO GAVE BIRTH TO HER MOTHER

Seven Stages of Change in Women's Lives

KIRKUS REVIEW

A psychoanalyst uses storytelling to explore the complex and, for some women, all-consuming and difficult mother-daughter relationship. The prolific Chernin (My Life as a Boy, 1997; In My Father’s Garden, 1996; Crossing the Border, 1994; etc.) envisions the psychological life of women as made up of seven stages: idealizing the mother, seeing her from a new perspective and revising the idealized image, blaming the mother and feeling rage toward her, forgiving her, identifying with her, letting go of the attachment to her, and finally taking one’s life into one’s own hands. This latter stage is marked by a breakthrough moment that Chernin calls “giving birth to one’s mother.” The symbolic new mother can now give birth to the daughter’s new self, and thus is established a new mother-daughter relationship. To illustrate these stages, Chernin has created characters based loosely on real women she has known. The storytelling format varies: Sometimes Chernin introduces a character and has her tell her own mother-daughter story; sometimes Chernin narrates; sometimes Chernin and the storyteller interact in a dialogue. Yet there is a certain sameness to six of the seven stories—their main characters, whether abused, neglected, or controlled, seem to be singularly obsessed with their mothers. Only in the seventh, in which a mother recounts the ordeal of her daughter’s chaotic wedding preparations, does a bit of life-restoring humor emerge. Chernin presents her own mother and daughter in a banal epilogue that unintentionally raises the question of how differently those two might have written their scenes. Readers who identify with intense and troubled mother-daughter relationships may find Chernin’s views on women’s psychological development plausible and these accounts sympathetic and engrossing; others may find themselves muttering, “Get a life!”

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-670-88096-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998




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