Allison Floyd'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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Jun 10, 2009

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bookshelves: mediocrity-rules, spackle-for-the-void
Read in July, 2009

Touching and well-written, this read more like an essay than a short book. I finished it in a couple hours and I'm a super slow reader. The length was disappointing--Reichl's mother was a complicated woman to whom she has a complicated and constantly evolving relationship, and while this book is clearly deeply felt, it often glides over those complications. The last few paragraphs dedicated to What My Mother Taught Me felt almost tacked on. For instance it's hard to swallow that her mother only asked that Reichl live up to her own possibilities in light of her reaction to the news of Reichl's first book contract, which is that they didn't send Reichl to graduate school so she could write cookbooks. There's also a steady streak of good old-fashioned child-parent guilt here that doesn't get delved into much, with Reichl lamenting that she didn't thank her mother for her sacrifices on the one hand and in the next beat painting a portrait of a thoroughly difficult woman who inspired perfectly understandable resentment, particularly for the burdens she placed on her daughter. In light of all this, however, Reichl's mother never ceases to be a sympathetic character, which a less generous and good-humored writer couldn't have pulled off. And I'll definitely spend the rest of the day being grateful that I wasn't born a female member of WW I/II generation. And it's great that a woman who spent most of her life being as unhappy and unfulfilled as Reichl's mother was ended up figuring out how to make herself happy and became such a cool old lady with world travels under her belt and awesome fashion sense. In the end, though, this was a fast, engaging read that could have been much more.
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