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A mother daughter relationship is one of the most wonderful yet most intricate of relationships. Here are a few books to help you understand it better, no matter which side you belong on.
A mother’s love for her child is said to be the purest form of love existing on the planet. When a woman nurtures a being inside her body for around nine months plus, and then they see the light of the day, there might be few joys comparable to creating a human life. Witnessing the possibilities that lie ahead of the baby, their small and big emotions, the process of growing up, motherhood must be one of the most wondrous states to be in.
Since literature is a reflection of human emotions, it is indeed natural to find books galore which explore this love in detail. However, the mother daughter relationship is considered to be even more special. As a daughter grows up, the mother sees part of her own self in her, and yet she experiences the wonders of seeing a person so different from her. However, like all intimate relationships, this too is not devoid of its own shortcomings and messiness.
Let us explore a few of the well know works so far that would do justice to your literary cravings and make you reflect more on this powerful relationship.
Janani – Mothers, Daughters, Motherhood. It is a collection of writings from women belonging to different backgrounds such as authors, artists, academics, and ordinary citizens who present their personal experiences of the mother daughter relationship, and what being a mother or a daughter might mean. The themes revolve around adoptive motherhood, step-mothering, and single-motherhood.
Next, we have Of Mothers and Others-Stories, Essays, Poems. This book, compiled by Jaishree Mishra, offers a collection of poignant and insightful pieces by famous Indian authors on the theme of motherhood. Motherhood like everything else is imperfect and the book tries showing the funny, messy, difficult and tender moments in all their glory. It also deals with single motherhood, adopted children, surrogacy, bereavement, special needs children, grandmothers, and reluctant mothers.
In international fiction, author Amy Tan had explored the mother daughter relationship in several of her novels.
The Bonesetter’s Daughter explores the mother daughter relationship across three generations. Ruth’s widowed mother Lulilng was detected in her early stages of Alzheimer’s and that forced Ruth to get a translator to translate some writings in Chinese which her mother had given her. She wanted to better understand her mother’s motivations and actions through those pages.
Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club revolves around four Chinese women, who’ve recently immigrated to San Francisco in 1949. They form the Joy Luck Club and are united in their grief and hopes. Amy Tan explores the deep yet complicated bonds between friends, as also the mother daughter relationship through this novel.
The Kitchen God’s Wife by the same author starts with Pearl, a second generation Chinese emigrant, as the protagonist. Pearl talks about how she is trying to balance her contemporary American family with the needs of her mother and her friends. However, from the third chapter, Pearl’s mother Winnie takes on the narrative. While Winnie reveals the secrets of her life, will Pearl find the strength through this to reveal her own secrets to her mother?
The Secret Lives of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd revolves around the life of Lily Owens whose life changes after the hazy memory of the afternoon in 1960’s South Carolina when her mother gets killed. Though this book has interesting plot points about race, Virgin Mary, and also beekeeping, at its core the book is about mothers– mothers who are flawed and mothers who are far from perfect.
Ian Falconer’s Olivia talks about a young and exuberant imaginary pig of the same name who is “very good at wearing people out.” Though her mother tells her this while tucking her to sleep, she also reminds the little one how much she loves her. This book is an ideal read for mothers with little girls who might need to remind the child that no matter what, she will always love her.
Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout is a story of the relationship between a socially awkward teenage daughter and her unassuming mother. Amy is a model daughter until the time she has a relationship with a teacher in his 40’s. When her mother, Isabelle, discovers the same, their relationship suddenly becomes strained. This is a thought provoking read into the depths of the mother daughter relationship.
Blue Nights is a moving account by Joan Didion, one of America’s most powerful essayists, about her daughter’s early death and its aftermath. This is a deep and haunting memoir by a mother who has lost her daughter and tries coping with it.
Swimming with Maya chronicles the journey and the process of healing after the untimely death of a loved one. Eleanor is virtually a single parent raising her two daughters Maya and Meghan. Though there were clashes between Maya and Eleanor, they were best friends before Maya passed away in an accident at the age of 19. The story talks about how Eleanor copes with the loss and gradually heals herself in the process.
Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle, considered to be one of the most brilliant memoirs of all times, looks into the dysfunctional family of the author’s childhood. Though this is non-fiction, it flows effortlessly and beautifully like fiction. It offers a view of how Walls changed from being a child who loved her family no matter what, to when she grows older and realizes how her family was not ‘normal’ and comes to terms with her father’s alcoholism and her mother’s lack of responsibility. However, despite it all she loves her family.
In her famous classic Little Women, Louisa May Alcott tells the story of Marmee who raises four very different daughters alone while their father is away to fight in the Civil War. While the daughters have tussles from time to time, the mother holds the whole family together.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is an extremely popular book where Bernadette is seen as a disgrace by others except for her daughter, Bee, who sees her just as her mother. Bernadette’s disappearance and Bee’s search for her mother is accounted for in a funny and sweet manner but what might attract you most is the strong underlying bond seen in their mother daughter relationship.
In case you loved these books or have some more which you’d like to add to this list, do let us know. Also, here is a list of books for you to further explore.
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I read like a maniac, like my life depends on it. I also write and
Amy Tan has written many books that cover mother-daughter relationships. Every single book written by her is unique in its own way but surely touched my immigrant heart!
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