Jane Turner's Reviews > Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way

Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl
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's review
Nov 03, 2010

it was amazing

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 of guests and girl scouts with moldy food. These are the golden stories that pushed Ruth’s previous books onto the bestseller lists, and they delight.

But Ruth is going for something deeper in this slim, yet powerful book. Reading the letters, Ruth sees that her mother was crushed by obedience to her family. Destroying that legacy, Miriam generously encouraged Ruth to pursue independence and defiance – although Ruth’s pursuit of a career was just as her mother wished.

Most telling is Ruth’s retraction of the original book title, Not Becoming My Mother, and turning it into For You Mom, Finally. This is the story of a daughter who finally sees the sacrifices Miriam made – and realizes she became her mother. We all do, somewhat, because we know the truth – we owe our lives to our mothers.

In the end, Ruth allows herself to see Miriam as an original, semi-selfless gem. The daughter’s apology for taking so long is complete.

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