Posts tagged ‘Motherhood’

The Gift of New Beginnings and Hard Choices – Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

There is a reason this book is on the tip of everyone’s tongue when they talk about the 2017 books to read.  It is simply excellent.  Ng’s sophomore novel is just as good as her first – and if you haven’t read “Everything I Never Told” then you have two books for your Thanksgiving reading list. 34273236.jpg

By all societal measures, the Richardson family is perfect. The attorney husband, the reporter wife (Elena), the two sons and two daughters nestled in their beautiful, well-manicured home in the carefully planned and civic-minded community of Shaker Heights.  Mia and Pearl, the Richardson’s new tenants, are the antithesis of the Richardson family. They are constantly on the move. Mia takes part-time jobs to sustain her art and Pearl is dragged along trying to find where she fits in each new school. They do not own a couch or two beds, their home furnishing are as impermanent as Mia’s artistic creations.

Despite their differences, at first the families seem to be a good fit in many respects.  Elena (Mrs. Richardson) hires Mia to clean their house and make dinner and Pearl becomes a fixture in the Richardson children’s lives. In a turn of heartbreak, when Elena’s life-long infertile caucasian friends move to adopt a Chinese baby, Mia quickly discovers that she works with the birth mother at a Chinese restaurant. The birth mother who has now realized that leaving her baby at a fire station was the worst mistake of her life.  This begins a legal battle between the birth mother and the adoptive parents splitting the town itself with the question of what makes a good mother? As the legal battle begins to pull Elena and Mia further apart, Elena makes the decision to find out about Mia’s history and this leads her down a path that results in a bitter end for absolutely everyone.

The question of motherhood and what makes us good mothers is a thread through-out this book. Is it the willingness to give up the things we most want for our children? Is it the simple act of giving life and sharing our genetic codes and ethnic backgrounds? Is it the financial ability to give the child the best life opportunities? Is it understanding we are not yet ready to be a mother and making the ultimate sacrifice of  giving up the child or ending the pregnancy?  Is it understanding that you are first a self-determined woman and then a mother or vice versa?

Ng examines each of these possibilities, while at the same time looking at how we plan our lives and how even the best plans are often extremely flawed.  There is an actual fire in the beginning and end of this story so the title is literal in that sense.  But Ng’s writing really pushes the edges of our planned lives to the brink of those moments when we pretend that everything is okay when really there are small fires to be put out everywhere we turn.  And sometimes those fires are exactly what we need to wake us up.

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”



November 21, 2017 at 10:06 am Leave a comment

Hitting the mediocre with commitment – “Daughter’s Keeper” by Ayelet Waldman

“Daughter’s Keeper” by Ayelet Waldman, Published in 2003 

Let me start by saying early into this book I realized that Ayelet Waldman is married to writer Michael Chabon, who really has quite a lot of love for himself and is likely too cool for all of us readers.   Setting that aside, or at least trying to, Waldman’s novel was okay.  Her writing has promise, the story was interesting and the characters were fairly developed. But it fell a bit flat.

Olivia is the daughter of a single middle class mother, Elaine, who was raised with as much affection and care as Elaine could muster.  And though she grew up in Berkley, California with all daughters-keeper-180her needs met, Olivia has always needed more.  She is ardent and passionate about life. In her early twenties, she travels to Mexico and meets the charming Jorge. They have what she considers a short affair and she returns to California and her life.  Much to Olivia’s surprise, Jorge appears on her doorstep.   He has illegally entered the country to be with her.  Of course the love story is not the thing that movies (or books) are made of, and quickly Jorge realizes that he cannot find a job with his illegal status.  Short of cash and desperate to feel some self-worth, he decides to engage in a drug deal. Olivia finds herself in a car waiting for Jorge while he runs into a house in a bad neighborhood with a box of something.

Two days later, Olivia is awakened in the middle of the night, in her apartment, when the police smash open the door and arrest her. Olivia spends a short stint in prison while she waits for her mother to post bond.  Once Olivia is released to Elaine’s custody, she discovers she is pregnant.  So while preparing for trial – she has been charged with co-conspiracy to deal drugs – Olivia must also determine what will happen to her unborn child.   Meanwhile, Elaine must decide how to be a mother to Olivia, even if her life has become something unrecognizable to her.

I feel like this description is clinical but that is because in part I felt like the book was like that.  I am not sure if this is the novel itself or just for some reason my reaction to it. Either way, Waldman tries to talk about motherhood and the complexity it creates and allows in our lives, but it felt contrived.  Waldman is an attorney and I will say I have noticed that when attorneys become authors sometimes there is an emotional disconnect in their writing.  Notably, Waldman does get good reviews for her novels so I am also willing to chalk this up to a rocky beginning to our relationship. Meaning this reader and writer will likely get back together in the future and we will see what happens.   But the suspense of our future really wouldn’t weigh heavy on my mind I assure you.



December 7, 2014 at 11:02 am Leave a comment


There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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