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Mama's Bank Account

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  1,990 Ratings  ·  254 Reviews
Mama's Bank Account (Harvest/HBJ Book)

The charming adventures of the Mama of an immigrant Norwegian family living in San Francisco. This bestselling book inspired the play, motion picture, and television series I Remember Mama.
Paperback, Harvest/HBJ Book, 160 pages
Published March 20th 1968 by Mariner Books (first published 1943)
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Bill  Kerwin
Feb 02, 2008 Bill Kerwin rated it liked it

This is the "novel" which forms the basis for the play and movie "I Remember Mama." It is little more than a series of vignettes, but they are realistic as well as heart-warming and not unduly sentimental.
Nov 01, 2011 Kate rated it really liked it
Sometimes when I am down I long for the era of polite books for grownups - books that don't need sex, violence, heartbreak, or 50-cent metaphors to entertain. Forbes' memoiresque style is sweet as she shares the travails of a Norwegian immigrant family in San Francisco. The title story is the nicest. Big thanks to the librarian who stuck this old book club edition (sternly marked No Renewals with a long-ago stamp) on the end-cap display for me to find. There is something friendly about paper so ...more
Sep 17, 2012 Mimi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
I have to preface my review with something my sister wrote in her review: "Mama is everything in a person that I wake up every morning wishing I could be. Also, if I were ever to try and write a book, this is the kind of book I would want it to be."

Mama seriously was amazing. This book is autobiographical; the author is writing about her family and Mama is the author's mother. The book was published 1943. I was impressed throughout the novel by Mama's common sense, wisdom, love, and work ethic.

Jan 01, 2012 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was such a PLEASANT book to read! Thanks to my sister for sharing her copy with me. It was the most basic story of human love and kindness displayed by a mother towards her family. Amazing how a little love and guidance can go such a long way! Required reading in my opinion!!
Aug 06, 2010 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delightful! I was humbled by how patiently, yet determinedly, this mother worked toward solutions for her family's needs. She sacrificed, but without feeling martyred. Very memorable...
Feb 15, 2011 Teri rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Teri by: Carbon Canyon Ward Book Club
"I Remember Mama" is one of my Mom's favorite movies. She bought me a copy of it and for some reason I have not watched it yet. I came across this book that was the inspiration for the movie and play and tv series. I loved it! My Dad's father is from Norway, so I loved that Mama and Papa are from Norway. The stories are sweet and memorable. Love feel good books. I read some of it to my husband and he enjoyed it as well.
Sep 29, 2015 Leah rated it it was amazing
I read this aloud to the kids for school. I thought it was a great book! The kids really seemed to enjoy it too. It's about a Norwegian immigrant family living in San Fransisco during the early 1900s. It's written from the perspective of Katryn, one of the daughters, and it's based on her own life. The warmth and family love make this book something special. "Mama" is a key character of each chapter and her resourcefulness, determination, and compassion really shine. I highly recommend this stor ...more
Sep 07, 2013 Alicia rated it it was amazing
I fell in love with this book in the first chapter. I didn't want to put it down. I enjoy sweet stories full of good family values. Mama reminded me of my grandmother. I was teary eyed by the end of most of the chapters. I read several chapters out loud to Dax, and he enjoyed them. I came across this title, when looking for something similar to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The writing is much simpler than Tree, but for me, I think the story is just as good.
Sep 10, 2013 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
I had to spend some time in the ER and just happened to have this book in my purse. I read it in three hours while waiting for test results. The perfect book to read then. It's loving, sweet, funny, homey and wonderful reading. I loved every page.
May 11, 2015 Bookworm rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, favorite
To quote Katrin's dear mother, "Is good. Is very good." I loved the tales of her and her Norwegian family as they grew up in San Francisco, with the security of their parent's love, and Mama's Bank Account! It deserves every star.
Feb 14, 2015 Vicky rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this easy read. My only complaint...the end didn't feel right to me.
Sep 15, 2014 Kari rated it really liked it
If you want to feel warm and fuzzy about the little things that make life BIG, this book is for you!
Apr 22, 2015 Maam rated it it was amazing
Definitely a feel good book. Loved the stories and loved Mama!
Nov 30, 2011 George rated it liked it

“Her disposition became, if possible , even meaner, and her vocabulary consisted entirely of cat expletives.”—page 162

Kathryn Forbes’s fictionalized memoirs, ‘Mama’s Bank Account,’ is a collection of engaging, charming and heart-warming stories from a simpler time and place; 1920s, in s San Francisco boarding house.

Recommendation: An enjoyable read for all ages.

“Life is good,” she said contentedly. “Life is so good.”—page 176

Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., hardcover edition,
Aug 30, 2013 Camie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short book published in 1945 about a Norwegian immigrant family living in San Francisco. Short stories of a family with an endearing mother who keeps everyone from worrying about the hard times they live in by often referring to her mysterious bank account. Perfect if you're looking for something you can read in a single afternoon, this bestselling book inspired the play, movie, and long running TV show I Remember Mama.
Jun 03, 2011 Michele rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-of-2012
A fascinating look at a sweet, intelligent, well-meaning Norwegian family. If you are a good mother, or you had a good mother, you will love this book. I teared up several times reading about this good woman. It is a quick, short read and well worth it.
These are the kind of good quality people that make America what it is today. Good parents raising kids with values. A lesson for us all.
Dec 14, 2014 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyable! I wasn't sure I'd like the short chapters but Mama's personality was so outsized, it made up for the scanty text!
Elizabeth K.
Oct 24, 2009 Elizabeth K. rated it really liked it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Violent Study Club book
Shelves: 2007-new-reads
This was a book for the BT book club, so very up that alley. It's a collection of memoirs/stories/stories based on memoirs written by a daughter about her family, recent immigrants to San Francisco. Well, recent at the time, I believe most of them took place in the 1910s and 20s. They're all very droll and usually illustrate some sort of moral, which is nice, but this is one of those books where when you take a closer look, it's a little amazing how simple the stories seem and yet how absolutely ...more
Oct 31, 2011 Lawrence rated it really liked it
March 22, 2016: I found the TV program I mention at the end of this 2012 review. It's on YouTube. Viva il progresso! --- at least some of the time.


I hope that there is always room for stories about people who are good, productive, and intelligent and have just a bit of a hankering for justice. Add love of family and of most other people - including cheating boarders - and you have Mama, a woman who, in spite of fear and financial and social disadvantages, sees good where she looks an
Rachel Wagner
Aug 07, 2007 Rachel Wagner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens, memoirs, topten
I love this little book. It is sweet and simple about a wonderful family. Each story could be its own family home evening and I don't think that is a bad thing. I wish more books like this were written about a functional happy family. They aren't perfect but they are happy and trying their best. I still love the story of Kathryn stealing the candy. I also love the stories of the resurrected cat, Mom selling her broach for graduation gift and Mama sacrificing her coat for her children. To me, it ...more
Nov 13, 2010 Doreen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone, all ages
Recommended to Doreen by: no one
This is a sweet story of a Norwegian family living in San Francisco. I think the time period is the 1920's or 30's. Mama is the family's driving force, as is the case in many families. The story is narrated by the oldest daughter, Katrin. The family faces illness, school issues, tight finances, and the crazy mishaps that seem even funnier when applied to first-generation children with immigrant parents. Both the cultural and language barriers make for plenty of humor.

Mama knows that her children
Alexa SOF2014
Jan 03, 2010 Alexa SOF2014 rated it really liked it
Mama's Bank Account tells the story of how a Norwegian mother Americanizes her family with her charm and understanding. This heartfelt book takes place in San Francisco in 1910. Mama is the main protagonist. We follow her life and the Hansen family by trying to combine traditional values with Norwegian values. Many issues are touched on such as, finances, family relationships, and assimilation. The last story in the novel takes place 10 years after the first story and shows how the next generati ...more
Shannon Duncan
Dec 21, 2015 Shannon Duncan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children, fiction
Mama's Bank Account is a touching collection of memories of a little girl's Mama. It was written by Katherine Anderson McLean, best known by her pen name Katherine Forbes and first published in 1943 by Harcourt Brace and company. There are a number of editions available.

Mama's Bank Account is made up short stories, each one about a different memory of Mama, who, with her young family, immigrated to San Francisco from Norway. Together, they slowly adapt their ways and find their feet. The childre
Jagadeesh Andrew  Owens
This is the first autobiography I ever read. I was eight or nine at the time, around the same age of the author during the time of the book. I don't remember where I got it, I think from my Granny Owens. This is the book that made me fall in love with autobiographies. Maybe I'm a voyeur, but being able to peek into other people's lives is a great fascination and pleasure of mine (albeit a literary one!). I just ordered a tattered old copy that I hope will match the one I got from Granny.

A review
Jan 20, 2014 Barb rated it really liked it
Read this book when I was sixteen (and again 41 years later a few days ago) after seeing the movie "I Remember Mama" (a wonderful flick with Irene Dunne as Mama, Oscar Homolka as the marvelously unkempt and angry--but kind--Onkel Chris and a surprise appearance by Edgar Bergen) upon which it was based. The book is different from the movie, but it has its own calm charm. Growing up as a Norwegian immigrant in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century, Katrin learns the lessons we all hope to ...more
Dec 24, 2015 gaargly rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Heartwarming and tear-wrenching. This is one of those old school books in which a perfectly functional and loving family undergoes challenges that the parents overcome in a very functional way. Entirely idealistic and optimistic. My one critique is that since it was written in the 1940s, it has traces of old-school racism, like the unqualified/unexplained/unexamined sentence on page 38: "I held tightly to Dagmar's hand and was suddenly, passionately grateful that I was not an Oriental girl." But ...more
Maggie Salisbury
Jan 01, 2015 Maggie Salisbury rated it it was amazing
In PB reprint from 1943: this trove of delightful little gems about an indomitable Norwegian matriarch of early twentieth-century San Francisco. Mama manages five kids, her own squabbling siblings, money problems, medical crises, and a growing number of boarders with optimism and insight. A fine antidote to our own coarse and indulgent times. I was saying Mama's mantra "is good, is good" and grinning ear to ear by the middle of the book.
Cynthia Hoffman
Aug 23, 2015 Cynthia Hoffman rated it it was amazing
This is a great story to read with your children--all about a family who struggles and survives because of a bank account that mama has at the local bank--that they NEVER touch. Instead they figure out ways to make do because they don't want to touch their savings. Having a bank account was a big deal and moved them mentally into the next socioeconomic rung.

Good life lessons for a family--about working as a family together.
Dec 23, 2014 Adrian rated it really liked it
Another old book from the old woman. I really enjoyed this story as well - a collection of short stories. My favorite was the last one, in which the parents in the poor family worry about the unfortunate connections their son is making as he is dating the daughter of a wealthy but extremely rude family, who they feel is unworthy of their son! Very funny.
Jul 19, 2015 Shelly rated it really liked it
The story told from a girl's perspective about her mom and their struggles growing up as immigrants in America. I like the optimistic outlook the book had. I have read a lot of very serious/sad books about people that seem to have a chip on their shoulder (I don't blame them one bit) and it was nice to have one about someone that struggled yet still looked at the good. Very quick read.
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Forbes, born Kathryn Anderson, was the granddaughter of Norwegian immigrants. She was a writer best known for Mama's Bank Account, a fictionalized memoir about a Norwegian family in 1920s San Francisco. The book focused on the warmhearted family and its struggles and dreams. The book inspired first a play, then a movie, and finally a TV series, all called I Remember Mama.

Forbes also published nove
More about Kathryn Forbes...

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