Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way
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Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  2,418 ratings  ·  559 reviews
Bestselling author Ruth Reichl examines her mother's life, giving voice to the universal unarticulated truth that we are grateful not to be our mothers

In Not Becoming My Mother, bestselling author Ruth Reichl embarks on a clear-eyed, openhearted investigation of her mother's life, piecing together the journey of a woman she comes to realize she never really knew. Looking...more
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published April 21st 2009 by Penguin Press HC, The
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Randy
I never met a book by Ruth Reichl I haven’t loved, and my adoration continued with this book. Where others were hearty meals, Not Becoming My Mother was a deceptively simple snack. (I’m certain that Ms. Reichl, editor of Gourmet Magazine, would find a more elegant food analogy, but I, alas, am but a quick and dirty cook, though one who loves reading the work of educated ones—like Ruth Reichl)

In her previous books, the author consistently folded her cooking and restaurant reviewing skills into pe...more
Nancy
Aug 12, 2009 Nancy rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Not my mother or anyone else
What a bust!

Ruth Reichl, who is editor of Gourmet magazine, has written three other memoirs on life/love/food, two of which I've read and really enjoyed. However, her newest pseudo-memoir about her mother's issues, I found terrible.

Rather than being anecdotal and witty, like the other two I've read, this mini-book is a slapped-together attempt to be sentimental about her mother's "gift." This gift being teaching daughter Ruth NOT to be like her mother, who was emotionally battered by HER mothe...more
Cindy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Crystal
I couldn't resist this title - or the author, for that matter. I have always been intrigued by Ruth Reichl and wanted to read her books.

In spite of the title, this is actually a tender (and very short) love note to her mother. Theirs was definitely a strained mother-daughter relationship that I think most women can identify with. Ms. Reichl's mother was not your conventional June Cleaver wannabe of the 1950s. After her mother's death, Reichl discovers her mother's journals and realizes, for the...more
Susan
I absolutely LOVED Ruth Reichl's book "Garlic and Sapphires" so I thought a memoir would be interesting. I especially liked the idea of a book that discusses Ruth's mother, since she "became" her mother during her restaurant critic days as a means of disguising herself. This audiobook, narrated by the author, is a lovely but slightly disturbing look into the often difficult mother/daughter relationship. So often there is a dichotomy of feelings between mothers and daughters - intense love and ad...more
L.D.
Checking in some books, I found the title very interesting. This also was my commitment to my daughter. That I would not repeat what my mother had done/and not done for and to me. I too have come to peace about my past, but there was a time, which as hard as I tried I was my Mother until I sought help and understanding. That is when the change took place. I could be what my daughter needed, emotionally strong, independent, loving, fair, confident and not to be afraid to say I'm sorry. I read thi...more
Paula
This book was Ruth Reichl's homage to her mother and the generation of mid-20th century women who could not reach their full potential and were uncomfortable in and resentful of their limited role as wife, mother and homemaker. Based on letters and notes written by Ruth's mother Miriam, Reichl seeks to understand, sympathize and honor the mother about whom she was irreverent and disparaging in her previous memoirs. This book doesn't have all the humor and the charming vignettes -- many of them r...more
Patty
When I read Reichl's book, Tender at the Bone, I was enchanted. Reichl is great storyteller and I found her life to be fascinating. Reichl did not seem to have lived a normal life and what she had experienced seemed like such fun.

Many of Reichl's stories were about her mother. These stories were funny, but sad because Miriam was not an easy woman to live with. Ruth and her brother Bob seemed lucky to survive childhood.

In this book, Reichl reexamines her mothers life. Reichl realizes that her mot...more
Eleanor
Why are relationships between mothers and daughters so complex? We love them, hate them, want to be just like them, and hope we end up completely different all at the same time. But do we ever really know their story? Do we ever understand why they push us the way they do?

Ruth's mother reminds me so much of my own. I grew up hearing the phrase "don't make the same mistakes I did" on an almost daily basis. All we want is for them to accept us as we are, and nothing more. And all they want is...to...more
Susan  Odetta
Ruth Reichel's mother was nothing like my mom; she was about 10 or more years older than my mom, from a wealthy family, and suffered, unknowingly until late in life, from bi-polar disorder. But the sentiments expressed and the questions, answered and unanswered, about her mother's life (and by that I mean her internal life, not the family tree), are, I suspect, universal to my generation of daughters. The author's blessing is that her mother left her a legacy of notes, letters, and a diary writt...more
Morgan
(Later republished with a new Afterword as "For you mom--finally!"

A so-so book,Ruth Reichlfinally writing directly about her mother, with understanding and compassion for her mother's bipolar life.

It's a thin book, though--small. I wish it were fatter--because I'm at the end of her memoirs (I think), because I wanted more foundation stories about life with this mother (and her father), the effect on Ruth. More, more stories. I loved her revising her old Mother Tales (what does she call them?), n...more
Julie
I am reading this because my sister, Marie, enjoyed it so much. After reading the first five pages, I'm pretty sure I will too.

When I finished this book, I had simultaneous urges to call my sister, my mother and my daughter.

I'm a big fan of memoirs and especially when the writer reveals the relationship she had with her parents. I love that there was a box of letters, receipts, scraps of paper even with notes from her mother that Reichl finally sat down to read, and that she had to work up to i...more
Laysee
Ruth Reichl’s memoirs of her journey into the culinary world as chef, restaurant owner, cookbook writer, and restaurant critic are hilarious and delicious treats I have enjoyed. “Not Becoming My Mother” is a different kind of memoir but it is familiarly sincere and honest. Originating from an acceptance speech she gave at an award ceremony, which coincided with the day her mother would have been a hundred years old, this book is dedicated to her mother, Miriam. It is an intimate and personal acc...more
Katie
Another book that I'm pretty sure I went in with the wrong attitude on. Ruth Reichl, the author, is a pretty infamous food writer in today's world, and since none of her books on food were on sale, I settled on this one, because I figured it couldn't be half bad. Well, I was sort of wrong. It's not a bad book, I was just very taken aback by what I read. Another short story that I finished in a few hours, it takes you through different lessons that Ruth's mother taught her, most of which were by...more
Michaela
This book was an angry outburst that did not justify itself. Reichl's conclusion in a nutshell: "look at how terrible this era was for women; to honor them we should not be wives or mothers or anything remotely similar to them."

I do think there is valid tragedy in what Reichl saw her mother suffer. But I also think her account of it was shallow and insufficient to make the broad claims that she did. Out of a box full of original letters, the reader only sees a few select sentences. I wish Reich...more
Meredith
With this brief memoir, Ruth Reichl bestows the degree of forgiveness upon her mother that is only possible after death. Rifling through her mother's letters and scribbled notes, she softens her recollections of her mother, and her mother's many failures and disregard for the needs of her children and family are reinterpretted as attempts to teach her daughter not to be life her.

The author reflects upon her life with her mother, a woman whose crushing bitterness at not being allowed to become a...more
Jane Turner
This is a delicious book about real, brave and true women who did not start out that way.

In a box of memorabilia, Ruth Reichl reluctantly uncovers the truth about her deceased mother, Miriam. As a young woman, Miriam’s father called her homely and predicted spinsterhood – but Miriam married twice and had children. Still, Miriam pined for a career that would reveal her true self.

Without something to engage her mind, Miriam’s manic-depression took hold and Ruth recounts her mother’s near-poisoning...more
Jan
I downloaded this book to my Kindle Fire...paid $16.95! This was a really short book though. I'm sort of ticked that Amazon is starting to charge so much just to download a book! But other than that, this was an interesting read, and a good one for mothers of children.

The book points out how bright women can become unhappy is they are directed into the wife/mother track at the expense of their aptitudes. Here's a few quotes from the book:
"Idle aptitudes cause restlessness and may detract from a...more
Richard
A brilliant and quick read, one of those things you need from time to time when you need a boost to get moving through a longer work.

Reichl is best known as the editor of the now defunct Gourmet magazine, a position she held for some years. Interestingly, "Gourmet" is never mentoned so much as alluded to in this brief but passionate and frequently entertaining memoir. The allusion is that if her (Reichl's) mother hadn't forsaken her own dreams and elected to live vicariously through her daughte...more
Julie
I must have read something to recommend this book in the depths of blogland, and thought I would give it a go. When I got it out from the local library, the librarian said that she had read her earlier books and was a good author, always a good start.

So this little tome didn't take long to read, it is a short little 112 pages. She is primarily a food writer/critic/editor, but in this book she talks about her relationship with her mother. I always enjoy tales of growing up, and I think the memoir...more
Joy
In Not Becoming My Mother, bestselling author Ruth Reichl embarks on a clear-eyed, openhearted investigation of her mother's life, piecing together the journey of a woman she comes to realize she never really knew. Looking to her mother's letters and diaries, Reichl confronts the painful transition her mother made from a hopeful young woman to an increasingly unhappy older one and realizes the tremendous sacrifices she made to make sure her daughter's life would not be as disappointing as her ow...more
Terry
Reichl's first two books (Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples) are definitely in my Top Twenty Favorite Books of All Time. Her third book was a huge disappointment to me, so I was wary of this one, unfortunately.

This book is far too slight to justify it as, erm, a book. It's really an extended essay. I think it's really such a rip-off to publish a tiny book with huge font and extra line spaces and then sell it as a hardcover, stand-alone book. Hmmph. I feel little books like Anna Quindlen...more
K
Jul 30, 2009 K rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ruth Reichl fans; those interested in a light read about women's issues
Ruth Reichl's memoirs are always pleasant to read, although I do think their quality has steadily declined since Tender at the Bone Growing Up at the Table. This one was quick and easy and gave me a bit to think about, although I didn't entirely agree with Ruth's conclusions.

Basically, in this memoir which centers around Ruth's mother, Ruth describes her mother as part of a transitional generation of women -- women who were born too late to be totally occupied by the chores of running their hom...more
Heidi
This book took me about an hour and a half to read. While Reichl isn't a great writer, she has an important story to tell, about generations of mothers and daughters. The main focus is her own mother, who suffered from mental illness and about whom Reichl has written scathingly before (I gathered; I haven't read her other books yet). On the day her mother would have turned 100, Reichl digs into a box of her mother's letters and diaries to discover her life. In the process, she reaches a new unde...more
Shelah
Miriam Reichl figures prominently in her daughter Ruth's food memoirs (Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples and Garlic and Sapphires), all of which are fantastic reads, so I was excited to pick up Reichl's newest book, Not Becoming My Mother. When I got it at the library last week, I was surprised at how small and light it was-- barely 100 small pages, and in truth, there's not much to it. It's a story we've heard before (or lived before): smart girl who wants to be a doctor and bows to cu...more
Brooke
Very one-dimensional book. Her experiences with her mother (and father, for that matter) left her fairly closed-minded about the possibilities available to women in our society. Instead of her mother's generation of well-educated women stuck at home in complete boredom, her perception is that women cannot possibly ever be happy and fulfilled without a lifelong career. Either perception limits women in my opinion. Women can do ANYTHING! Including staying home and teaching young minds. A woman can...more
Marcia
I put this book on hold at the library and was surprised when it came in and was a very short "book". I debated a long time on the rating. There was something about this short book that called to me. I wouldn't call it great literature or even a great story. Yet,it really made me think. Do our mothers try to make sure we don't repeat their mistakes? Do mothers want their daughters lives to be different from their own? Do we try to pass on to our daughters not to be just like us but to be better...more
Amy
A wonderful fast read. Whenever I pick up anything written by Ruth Reichl, I realize how much I love her tone and style. She is a wonderful storyteller who knows how to draw the reader into her life. This book in particular was a wonderful tribute to her mother, who spent her entire life kind of lost and not knowing who she was really supposed to be. Every woman has stories about her grandmother or great grandmother similar to Reichl's--this was a generation that was out of place in their time....more
bookczuk
This was one of the books I read during the final week of bumma's life. I found a strange comfort in reading others write of their loved ones who had died (also read Christopher Buckley's marvelous book, Losing Mum and Pup and CAlvin Trillin's About Alice.) Someday I hope to put my bumma stories together in a book as a tribute to a phenomenal woman. Trillin and Alice, and the Buckley clan inspire me to do so.

I found this book kind of like driving by a roadside accident. You just have to look. Re...more
Jo
I am a huge Ruth Reichl fan and have loved her all books about her life and family. This one, however, is a $20 magazine article in a miniature hardcover -$16.00 with Barnes & Noble discount - but still a magazine article. It did, she explains, start out as a speech. In any event, it never made it into 'a book'.

Sadly, I never felt that I knew her mother better from this book or from the other books that include here. Was she a discontented housewife? a manic depressant? or maybe just a crot...more
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Ruth Reichl is an American food writer, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and culinary editor for the Modern Library.
Born to parents Ernst and Miriam (née Brudno), she was raised in New York City and spent time at a boarding school in Montreal. She attended the University of Michigan, where she met her first husband, the artist Douglas Hollis. She graduated in 1970 with a M.A. in art history...more
More about Ruth Reichl...
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table The Gourmet Cookbook: More than 1000 recipes Delicious!

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“...in the end you are the only one who can make yourself happy. More important, ...it is never too late to find out how to do it.” 16 likes
“Growing up, I was utterly oblivious to the fact that Mom was teaching me all that. But I was instantly aware of her final lesson, which was hidden in her notes and leters. As I read them I began to understand that in the end you are the only one who can make yourself happy. More important, Mom showed me that it is never too late to find out how to do it.” 7 likes
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