Thursday, April 07, 2011

Fiction: Mothers & Daughters by Rae Meadows

A young mother trying to get her feet under her after the birth of her daughter while getting over the death of her own mother the year before sets the stage for Mothers and Daughters (Henry Holt) by the author of Calling Out and No One Tells Everything.

While the theme of daughters learning surprising things about their mothers later in life or even after death has been worked over very well, the incorporation of some strong historical elements in Mothers and Daughters adds some welcome and unexpected depth. Even so, Meadows never quite delivers on her earliest promises.

From contemporary America to early 20th century New York City’s violent Fourth Ward we are introduced to what actually amounts to five generations of women caught in a web of quintessentially American themes: issues of class, migration and, of course, motherhood.

Along the way we encounter everything from opium addiction to breast cancer and, in the end, it’s all a little much. Or maybe, upon consideration, it’s not quite enough. It’s as though Meadows sets us up for this epic journey, then never really takes us all the way home.

Mothers and Daughters is a good book, sure. But that’s the problem, in a way: it could have been so much more. ◊

Sienna Powers is a transplanted Calgarian who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. She is a writer and conceptual artist.

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