Mothers & Daughters

Written by Rae Meadows
Review by Nanette Donohue

This intergenerational novel focuses on three women: Violet, an eleven-year-old girl struggling to survive in turn-of-the-century New York; Iris, Violet’s daughter, who is dying of cancer, and Samantha, a new mother struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death. The chapters alternate among the three narrators, and all three protagonists’ lives are interconnected both by blood and by a small box of recipes and mementos kept by Violet and passed on to her daughter and granddaughter. Each woman struggles with a different set of challenges: Violet faces poverty and a drug-addicted mother; Iris is coping with her husband’s infidelity and her own end-of-life issues; and Samantha is managing the stress of finding balance between motherhood and her professional identity.

The modern sections of the novel read like problem-of-the-week women’s fiction, where everything that could possibly go wrong in a woman’s life is going wrong. The historical section, which focuses on Samantha’s grandmother Violet and her rough-and-tumble childhood in turn-of-the-century New York City and her escape to the rural Midwest on an orphan train, is much stronger and more original. Meadows is a skillful writer, and Mothers & Daughters will be enjoyed by readers of women’s fiction. It is also a good choice for book clubs.