Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss” as Want to Read:
Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  2,967 ratings  ·  374 reviews
An instant bestseller in both hardcover and paperback, Hope Edelman's Motherless Daughters explores the myriad ways that losing a mother can affect almost every aspect and passage of a woman's life. First published a decade ago, it is still the book that motherless daughters of all ages look to for understanding and comfort and that they press into each other's hands. Buil ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 390 pages
Published March 21st 2006 by Da Capo Lifelong Books (first published 1994)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Motherless Daughters, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Erin Shiba Absolutely. There are women who were interviewed for the book whose mothers were absent in all ways- through death, addiction, abandonment, etc.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,967 ratings  ·  374 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss
Meredith Holley
Jun 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Meredith by: The Friends of the Library Sale
My mother died the day before my first law school final. Hope Edelman says, in this book, that partway through college she had a weird urge to walk up to strangers and tell them, “My mother died when I was seventeen,” because she recognized that this fact about herself, this fact that alienated her from the people around her, had become totally definitive about who she was. A girl can’t tell people that her mother died because it brings only fear and pity, it doesn’t solve anything to talk about ...more
Jan 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Though clearly intended for women who've lost their mothers, this book is full of insights for someone like me, the father of a motherless daughter. It reveals much that I suspected and even more that had not occurred to me about the difficulties and opportunities presented to a daughter with the loss of her mother. Hope Edelman surveyed many women who had lost their mothers and drew some valuable conclusions about the effect of such a loss on both the child and the adult daughter. ...more
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A clerk at a plant nursery recommended this book to me--I don't recall what I said to prompt her to bring it up, but she insisted I get it immediately, and without sounding too dramatic, this book saved my life.

My mother had died about ten years earlier--I was twenty-two--and I was struggling. I looked and acted like I had it all together, but inside I was falling apart. (Guess the woman saw right through me.)

I am forever grateful to Ms. Edelman and the woman at the nursery because this book he
May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book has been extremely helpful to me. I have lost both of my parents. None of my friends (luckily) knew what I was going through and so it was very hard to talk to people about the loss and about the feelings I had regarding the loss. I felt very lonely. Then I decided to take a leap of faith and fly to the US (I'm from the Netherlands) in order to become more confident and independent. I went to Boston and - being the booknerd that I am - ended up at Borders and I stumbled upon this book. ...more
Feb 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't help but think of Motherless Daughters yesterday, Feb.17, 2011, as that day was the 24th anniversary of the day my mother died. I was 21, and my world caved in with her death. I read this book 7 or 8 years after her death and it tossed me a lifeline. The words of Motherless Daughters explained why I was feeling/behaving the way I was, and that I was not alone. This book gave me a sense of peace and healing that has stayed with me for many, many years.

This book is based on the intervie
Dec 14, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: all women
This books is written primarily about women who have lost their mothers earlier in life and the life long impact this has, yet I still find it an important book for every woman. We all are daughters, many are mothers, and we all know mothers and daughters who have been impacted or will some day be impacted by the loss of a mother. The void created by mother loss is universal. This important book can help each of us understand our "sisters" better and help us deal with our own mother loss whether ...more
Feb 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Find yourself in this book - an affirmation of loss.
July 8, 2000

I don't know if Hope Edleman could ever really fathom the good she has done through writing this book, and how she has brought such beautiful purpose and meaning to her profound loss. What an amazing tribute to her mom. ---------- I was 11 years old when my mother, Linda, died suddenly from a brain aneurism. She was only 45 years old. Not a day in my life has passed that I don't miss her immensely. At the age of 18, a week before my
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I bought this book for my neighbors ages 18 and 21 who just lost their mother to breast cancer in June. Before giving it to them, I decided to order a copy for myself so I could read it and decide if they might be ready to hear the message the author was sharing given they are newly grieving. What I found is that this book resonated with me so much as I dealt with my own mother loss. My mom developed early onset Alzheimer's when I was in my mid 20s. She died when I was 40 almost ten years ago. T ...more
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
22 – As soon as I get angry I want to defend her
108 – Negative Projection: if someone’s late, they’re dead. Fear of similar losses may become a defining characteristic of her personality. What tremendous luck is going to prevent all the people I love from dying?
111 – People pleaser because I don’t want to risk anyone’s rejection
182-187 – The anxious-ambivalent daughter in relationships: when a woman looks to a partner to mother her, she sees the relationship through the eyes of a child. She ins
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
May 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: daughters who've experienced loss of their mothers, especially before adulthood
I read this book immediately when it was published in hardcover. And it was so special because many of the experiences and feelings written here resonated so strongly with me, and sometimes I was hearing them for the first time from someone other than myself, even though I’d had a friend and some acquaintances who’d experienced loss of a mother during childhood or adolescence. (Led me to join a motherless daughters support group, and some members of our group continued meeting on our own for yea ...more
Wendy Armstrong
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is a patchy collection of anecdotes and snippets of psychology. It's definitely aimed at women whose mothers died when they (the daughters) were under 25, and isn't really suitable for later, 'normal' mother loss. I am in the target demographic (mother died in her 30s when I was 18) but I don't think I'll ever refer to this book again.

The two overarching messages I took from Edelman, and which pervade the book, were:

1. We idealise our dead mothers, honouring them ‘by granting them posthumou
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not one to quote or recommend a "self help" book, as if it often categorized. I bought this book the month it came out over ten years ago, when I was working in a bookstore. I couldn’t wait to read it and then I couldn’t put it down. Overall, I think its popularity with women who have lost a mother at a young age, because Edelman confirms all the emotions you go through, and through again as you, as a woman, and a mother. She was the first person I heard state she didn’t believe in the "tra ...more
May 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The Anne Quindlen quote early in the book says it all... "For a long time, it was all you needed to know about me, a kind of vestpocket description of my emotional complexion:'Meet you in the lobby iin ten minutes- I have long brown hair, am on the short side, have on a red coat, and my mother died when I was nineteen.'" Except for me, it reads, 'and my mother died when I was fourteen.'

This is THE book- the book that "gets" me, that understands where I'm coming from and why. This is the book I
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When a girl or woman you know experiences the death of her mother, instead of sending flowers, get her this book. In fact, give this to the husband of a woman who died and left a young daughter; I know of several men who read this in an effort to understand what their daughter would go through without a mother. Alternately heartbreaking and heartwarming, if you've lost your Mom, whatever age you were when it happened, you will turn to this book over and over again for comfort and hope. I can't r ...more
Sara Stouffer
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
My mom died about 5 months ago. I am 27 years old. She had been sick for a few years with cancer and I took the book out from the library while she was in the hospital during the last month of her life because I hoped that I would find something helpful in it, that it would make me feel less scared, and less alone.
It did help. At least it helped as much as any book could. Of course the book isn't perfect, nothing could be a perfect help or a perfect fix for a daughter losing her mother before s
Feb 06, 2014 rated it did not like it
Motherless Daughters has been mentioned to me a few times in the many years since my mother passed away when I was a teenager. I appreciated that the author gathered a multitude of stories. It was very cathartic to read the experiences of other people - especially regarding a topic that can be emotional and is not casually shared. This book gave me insight into some of my own behavior, and I am very thankful for that.
Then I got to the chapter 'When a Woman Needs a Woman: Gender Matters.' Wherein
May 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any woman who has lost her mother, husbands of motherless daughters
Recommended to Kari by: Carrie Bombria
I was given this book at the age of 15 right after my mother died. My cousin's wife, who also lost her mother at a young age, had read it and found it incredibly helpful.

It took me three years to read past the first page, mostly because it just made the fact that my mom was never coming back so much more real. But once I was strong enough to read it, I found so much comfort in its pages. It seemed that every. single. woman. who wrote to Hope, wrote exactly what I had felt, and still did feel. I
Amanda Grice
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book made me realize the feelings I have had my entire life were normal. I lost my mom at the age of five. This year I celebrated outliving her. It is a weird journey. Ultimately though I’m not alone.
Nov 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book has special meaning to me. My mother, who was an outstanding and incredible woman who had tremendous faith, was very intelligent and practical optimist, lived her life to the fullest. She was understanding, generous, and gracious. Her sparkling wit and sense of humor spread her joy and touched the lives of many people.

I first read this book years after Mom had died. While I have very vivid memories of her and carry her in my heart, this book stirred up special moments and aspects of re
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction, mothers
This is an important book for any woman who has lost her mother at any age, but especially before she turns twenty. I was lucky enough to have my mom until I was 36. She was only 57 when she died, still way too young, but I can’t imagine having lost her when I was still a child or a teenager. I can’t even bear thinking of it. This book was a very cathartic experience for me in many ways. It taught me that this profound loss isn’t something I get over or around, or something I let go of; rather, ...more
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book helps! As a motherless daughter, you spend your life holding your breath. I didn't realize I was doing this, until I passed the age my mother was when she died. I've reached a point in my life that I have no experience with and no role model. My children now are older than I was when my mother died. I have no frame of reference for a relationship with them. This book helped me to figure out those little things that I couldn't put my finger on. Why I was reacting I appropriately and why ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book hit me like a brick but I suppose that’s because it put words to what I have lived. Edelman provides deep insight into the hearts and minds of motherless daughters, and I would recommend this book both to those who have lost mothers, and to those who are seeking to love women who have lost mothers. I enjoyed the statistics given, appreciated the thoughts given on the different types of relationships that motherless daughters have to navigate, and was grateful for the author’s willingne ...more
Jessica Jeffers
Jul 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, nonfiction
They should hand this book out with your ovaries. That sounds glib, but seriously: nearly every single woman out there is going to lose her mother one day. When you do, this book will be your lifeline. It is essential reading -- I revisit it every year on the anniversary of my own mother's death. ...more
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book took me a while to get through because it was too real and too much to get through. It is so familiar and so painful and comforting for someone who has lost their mother while young and I am so grateful a friend who had been through the same thing gave this to me as a gift.
B. Jean
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Success often involves a departure from family and home, a risk other women may not be willing to take. But the motherless daughter frequently isn’t leaving a place where she feels safe and secure; she’s looking for one where she can belong. When the death of her mother also means the dissolution of her family, a daughter loses whatever secure foundation she had. Her search for safety and security requires that she keep moving forward. Once she starts, there’s no going back—because there’s ofte ...more
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My mother died when I was 12. It has shaped my whole life. I had purchased this book shortly after the first edition was released and made it part-way through crying through many pages. I lent it to a friend who never returned it. Perhaps a good thing, because this time I read the most recent version that spoke to me through all stages of my life. My mother-in-law recently passed away and I retired, two life events that arrived in a way that made it clear that I never grieved my own mother's dea ...more
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
There were many aspects of this book that were irrelevant to my particular circumstances, but overall, I found it to be a very thought-provoking and relatable read.
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best book I have read about this loss. Many chapters spoke to me directly.
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really good to help cope with grief. There are different explanations for reactions to grief at all stages of life which didn't make me feel so alone. Would recommend to anyone going through losing their Mum and will refer back to this throughout my life ...more
Kit Mead
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In 1986 I was 16 years old and my mother died after a 7 year battle with cancer. That moment defined who I am to this day and many of my life’s decisions or quirks were because of that experience. I didn’t realize how many of my struggles were because of the age I was when she died or how pervasive her death was throughout almost every aspect of my life. After many years of on and off therapy, I never got nearly as far as I have within the first 80 pages of this book. Hope Edelman has changed my ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Dead Moms Club: A Memoir about Death, Grief, and Surviving the Mother of All Losses
  • The Dogs of Venice
  • Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough
  • Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving
  • Before the Ruins
  • Dying to Wake Up: A Doctor's Voyage into the Afterlife and the Wisdom He Brought Back
  • Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century
  • Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times
  • The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion
  • On Top of Your Game: Mental Skills to Maximize Your Athletic Performance
  • Start Late, Finish Rich: A No-Fail Plan for Achieving Financial Freedom at Any Age
  • Brush Like a Badass: A curler's guide to great sweeping
  • Joyous Detox: Your Complete Plan and Cookbook to Be Vibrant Every Day
  • The Hero: The Enduring Myth That Makes Us Human
  • The Low-Residency MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Creative Writing Students
  • Danse avec le siècle
  • The Power of a Praying® Mom
  • Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Hope Edelman is the internationally acclaimed author of eight nonfiction books, including the bestsellers Motherless Daughters and Motherless Mothers, as well as the upcoming book, The Aftergrief. She has lectured extensively on the subjects of early loss and also on nonfiction writing in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Her articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, ...more

Related Articles

It's June, which means it's time to celebrate Pride month in honor of the LGBTQ+ community! This year, we wanted to highlight the...
256 likes · 47 comments
“There is an emptiness inside of me -- a void that will never be filled. No one in your life will ever love you as your mother does. There is no love as pure, unconditional and strong as a mother's love. And I will never be loved that way again.” 114 likes
“When a daughter loses a mother, the intervals between grief responses lengthen over time, but her longing never disappears. It always hovers at the edge of her awareness, prepared to surface at any time, in any place, in the least expected ways.” 86 likes
More quotes…