Memoirs Too Powerful to Put Down

Real stories, real women, real lessons that will shake you up and set you back down—changed for the better (and stronger).
Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir

Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir

288 pages; Random House
When widowed, single mother Katie Hafner invites her elderly mom to move in with her and her teenage daughter, she presents the situation as a pastoral experiment: three generations of women under one roof in San Francisco. Hafner is such a likeable, rational-sounding narrator that you, too, will think this might all work out. She describes their idyllic apartment and owns up to a few not unexpected conflicts, such as who gets which refrigerator drawer. Then—surprise!—she reveals that the last time she lived with her mother was when she was 10 years old and had to be removed from the house as a result of her mother’s terrifying alcoholism. Things get even more complicated when she slowly admits that her mother still drinks (a little), her husband died suddenly a few years before and her older sister doesn’t speak to her. As Hafner's own illusions fade, the book turns into a reflection on forgiveness and—when that fails, as it sometimes does—acceptance. "What I wanted more that anything was my mother's attention. I plotted and I campaigned. I hatched plans. I pleaded," she says, describing her childhood. "Then, just when I thought I had her, she would slip from my grasp." Her mother very much remains in the moving story with all her strengths and weaknesses—and, thankfully, so does her adult daughter.
— Leigh Newman