Caitlin Constantine's Reviews > Fierce Attachments: A Memoir

Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick
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Sep 13, 10

Read from September 05 to 09, 2010

I've seen this book cited as a classic of the memoir genre, and as I have recently undertaken the task of schooling myself in the classics, I figured I needed to read this. I'm glad I did. It's not because the story is particularly remarkable, because it's not - at least, not any more than the story of a working-class immigrant Jewish family in 1940s New York City can be - but because the way Gornick handles the story is practically virtuoso. She brings you into the claustrophobic setting of the tenement she grew up in, into the tiny little world she shares with the inhabitants of the tenement, and into the smothering, bickering, antagonistic relationship she has with her mother.

The relationship with her mother is the focal point of the book, and like the title says, it's a fierce attachment, but it's not all motherly love and filial devotion. Gornick seems to both hate and love her mother with equal intensity, which was kind of foreign to me, as I definitely found my mother(s) frustrating but I am not sure I ever actually hated them, and certainly not as an adult. (Perhaps a benefit of living far, far away from them? And maybe also not having mothers who are totally maladjusted individuals?) Part of me wants to describe it as a dysfunctional relationship, but maybe that's just me putting my judgments on things. Who knows?

What I do know is that it was beautifully written, and for that reason alone it was worth reading.
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