Friday, June 12, 2009
A Book We All Should Write
I picked up Not Becoming my Mother: and Other Things She Taught me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl after hearing her interviewed on NPR a few weeks ago. It is not your usual memoir. It is more an elegy for her mother. It is remarkable in several ways.
First, Ms Reichl has always known her rather colorful mother has kept a shoebox full of her letters and diaries but had never found it. One day she stumbles across this treasure trove of writings by her mother and decides she needs to write the book her mother would have written. What a gift for any daughter! To find your mother's letters and writings and to begin to understand her in a way that you had not before, would be a priceless treasure. Our mothers can be mysterious. At the same time, they are the women we are most like and we strive to most understand. We love them, honor them, respect them and cherish them, but as the author suggests, we try not to repeat the same mistakes they did. Relationships with mothers are always bittersweet.
Second, Ms Reichl makes an important argument for why women need to find important and fulfilling work. She writes of her mother's boredom at being part of a generation of women who were educated, but could not work because it was not respectable. Reichl knows after watching her mother and father interact that the true secret to happiness is having something meaningful for yourself. She knew this and sensed this from her mother and always understood that she would have a career. Her mother's gift to her, realized in the writing of this simple book, was that she wanted her daughter to do everything in her power not to be the same woman she was. A second amazing gift and understanding. From mother to daughter.
Last, it is a very simple and beautifully written narrative. It is short enough to finish in an evening, but it is so beautiful it will leave you thinking for hours. (or better yet , thinking about writing your own story for your own mother.) I would love to be so gifted that I could write a book like this.
So try to write your mother's story and see what it stirs up in you. Remember, we've come a long way baby!