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Someone Not Really Her Mother

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  218 ratings  ·  42 reviews
A Good Morning America Read This Book Club pick
Named One of the Best Books of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle

In this graceful and compassionate fiction, three generations of mothers and daughters in the McCarthy family face the challenges of Alzheimer’s. This story offers unusual insight into the consciousness of Hannah Pearl, who lives her daily life with coura
Mass Market Paperback, 162 pages
Published August 30th 2005 by Plume (first published 2004)
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Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the book Virginia Woolf would write if Woolf were alive today.
It's a novel in delicate watercolor. Yet, beyond the sunlit imagery, there are shadows.

It's a story of mothers and daughters through years of love and loss, duty and hardship, overwhelming grief and as much joy. Chessman's rendering of an old woman's dementia is...incredible, thoroughly authentic. All the voices, though distinct, blend beautifully into one cohesive whole.

I'd almost call this book the feminine equivalent to Pau
Dec 12, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The most interesting things about this novel are:

1. The dementia-ridden narration of Hannah;

2. The Holocaust being based on the French experience.

Unfortunately, the book needs more. More of almost everything: character development, story development, interactions among the characters, etc.

Some of the subplots seem part of the story just because. I'm not sure how much I care about Fiona's search for a nanny, her visit with the nanny in the wheelchair, or her anxieties over care for Seamus. And I
Jan 25, 2017 rated it liked it
This slender book, a novella really, inhabits the failing mind of an elderly woman, Hannah Pearl, in Connecticut, and those of the daughter and granddaughters who try and -- against the odds -- sometimes succeed in communicating with her. Through the medium of Hannah's memories and her present confusion, the book develops the story of her early years, when she left WW II France as a Jewish refugee child for safety in England, albeit without her cherished family, and the briefly happy life she e ...more
Jul 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
Hannah Pearl lives in a confused world of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Her mother put her on a train as a young girl to escape the war in France in 1940. As an adult with two grown daughters, she lives in the past. Her daughters try to bring her into the present without much success. They don't know what she suffered in her past.
For me, the story (fiction) was difficult to follow & didn't keep my interest, although I read the entire book.
You may enjoy the book, however. It was recommende
Ann Adams
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Great narrator.
Lorraine Montgomery
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing

The young woman says Hannah like hand, with an h bold and blowing, just like that, and an a flat, like a marsh.  Hannah is used to this, but privately she thinks of her name as having an H only when you write it.  When you say Hannah, the word should open up at first, with no h at all, just a lovely “Ah!” and then another one.  “Ahnah!” with more fullness to the second “ah”.  How to tell the young woman this?

Hannah Pearl feels words slipping away from her, people to be other than who they really
Hannah Pearl is a woman in her mid-70's living in an assisted living home in rural Connecticut but in her mind she is a young woman living in WWII Europe. More than 50 years ago Hannah was that young woman, a 15 year old living in France with her parents and younger sister, Emma. Hannah's family was Jewish and when the war reached her town the family was split apart when Hannah's parents sent her to England to work as an au pair. Emma was too ill to travel so she stayed with her parents and all ...more
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Weak in so many areas, namely underdeveloped characters and story with random granddaughter side plots that have nothing to do with anything.

Can't imagine why this got any press and 4-5 star reviews, except that people are often impressed by their own personal connections to a story theme. I only read this book because it was recommended by some source that claimed it provided a good depiction of France, which it didn't even do at all, except Hannah's relapsing into speaking French and obvious
Layla Naficy
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised by "Someone Not Really Her Mother" - this little novel stuck out to me at a used bookstore and I purchased it for under $1.00. Upon reading, I was immediately drawn in by the main character, Hannah's account for her past and intrigued by her foggy sense of the present. Hannah is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, yet due to her dementia, lives in her teenage years in the 1940's.

Harriet Chessman gives the reader an intimate glimpse into the mind and world of
Oct 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
One of my fellow book clubbers recommended and loaned this book to me and what an incredible little book. It is a novel of a woman with Alzheimer's and her family. It kind of drove me crazy how all the details of the main character's life are all jumbled and seem to be hiding just out of reach or just beyond the next corner but it is the story told mostly from her point of view that gives the novel such great depth and uniqueness. And I was SO mad about the ending.... until I'd had a day to thin ...more
Margo Brooks
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobooks, fiction
Audiobook. A portrait of Alzheimer’s. As a family struggles to maintain a connection to their mother and grandmother, she struggles with a past she spent half a life trying to forget. The portrayal of Hannah’s disjointed thoughts as she travels through her fog was quite interesting, as were the reactions of her daughter Mir and her granddaughters Ida and Fiona. Ida and Fiona want to know more about Hannah’s escape from Nazi-invaded France, but they can’t quite connect. Neither can Hannah connect ...more
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
It was a two-fer for the effects of Alzheimer's disease on families today. Here, Hannah has mostly lost touch with the present day, instead returning to the trauma of a fifteen-year-old departing France and leaving her family to be destroyed by the Nazis. In the intervening years, she has spoken very little of this to her daughter and granddaughters, who are unable to follow where her scattered memories lead. The sense of bewilderment in Hannah's chapters is acute. Her family tries to help her, ...more
Mahin711 Swagger Down
Sep 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 7th-grade
The main character, Hannah, is an old woman. She has a brain disease that has caused her to have a disorder of memories. She needs a walker to walk and she only speaks French. In some parts of the book she is able to speak a little English. Her husband, Russel is part of an army. She has a daughter named Miranda.

This book is about a bunch of mothers and their grown-up daughters. It's also about relationships and having kids. Hannah is a survivor of the holocaust. She finds a long lost sister tha
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another lovely offering by Harriett Scott Chessman! Even though a short work, I feel connected to the characters as they unfold chapter to chapter/story to story. As the family learns to accept how Hannah is losing her memory for them and the everyday, they are also instrumental in the healing of suppressed memories just by their sweet interactions.

Each of them have special connections with Hannah - Mir through French , Fiona through the baby, Ida through poetry - especially Hannah's poems and t
May 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
I enjoy the author's writing style, and this was no disappointment. The story is poignant to say the least. Having a family member losing herself and her family because of Alzheimer's, this hit close to home but not in a painful way. The insight into the three generations and the impact of Hannah's changing mind really captured the essence of how this disease or any like it affects an entire family.
Jul 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
One of the points of view was really interesting (a woman with Alzheimer's) and one of the story lines was really interesting (a woman in love with her married professor), but it hopped around between the female characters too much trying to make a connection that I didn't connect to the characters as much as I would have liked to. Therefore, the supposedly emotional surprise at the end was neither emotional nor interesting.
Jan 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is an emotional, insightful book. Hannah's daughter and grand daughters are trying to understand her behavior. Hannah is reliving her childhood during World War II that she had previously tried to avoid remembering. French is interwoven in the book as Hannah relives being separated from her family and the time that followed.
Through reading this book I reflected on how much Alzheimer's Disease is a puzzle and loss for family.
Jan 04, 2011 rated it liked it
This was an interesting subject that could have resulted in a really great book in the hands of a more gifted writer. Unfortunately, Chessman does just an adequate job. Her characters seem frozen at a distance from us, and even the most developed among them could use more depth and nuance. Her portrait of a woman's slip into dementia is interesting and seems well-done, but her look at the effects on the woman's family could have used more fleshing out.
Jun 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
It's about three generations of women, the oldest of whom was directly effected by the Holocaust, and is now battling Alzheimer's. The family is dealing not only with the present illness of the matriarch, but also the secrets about her life that she had never disclosed. I gave it two stars because the story never really seemed to go anywhere...I kept wanting more from both the story and the characters.
Karen R.
Sep 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book a lot. The story was interesting, as it explored love and familial relationships from the perspective of 3 different generations and 4 different women's points of view. I particularly liked the way/the writing style in which the author chose to tell the story. It's a quick and enjoyable read.
Apr 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Scott Chessman has a uncanny ability of getting to the heart of mother/daughter relationships in a few words. In this novel, she examines three generations of women-- what they reveal, what they remember, and what they choose to conceal. It is the best (and most true) book I have read about someone suffering from alzheimers.
Sep 30, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: easy read
this book was too simple. the plot had a good skeleton, but nothing grew from it. It took 2 hours to read. my favorite part of the book is how the author describes dementia. it is not an easy illness to have, or watch others have and i think the author did a very good job describing the symptoms of this illness.
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A slim, readable but haunting book (a one-sitting work). The story traces three generations of women in the same family but pivots on the matriarch's past and present decline into what is not named but is probably Alzheimer's. Those current-day passages about Hannah are particularly insightful and well written. I also really liked the CT, particularly New Haven, references.
Josh Karaczewski
A beautiful and tragic story of a woman losing her memory in her advanced age, and her children and grandchildren living their lives around her. The narrative is a scatter of memories and worries, relationships and regrets, delusions and lucidity, all told masterfully in glowing language.
May 23, 2008 rated it liked it
I heard of this story on the Today show. I would say the book was so-so. I love the premise of the book but felt like it wasn't all pulled together how I would like. Could have had better character development all around.
Apr 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book really got to me. I'm sure part of it is that i work in a nursing home, but also the connection to WWII. I thought it was haunting and beautiful.
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Maybe it's because my mother is aging, and she lived through war-torn Berlin, Germany, but I found this to be tearfully poignant. Excellent POV.
Feb 05, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a really fast read, and a good one. A meditation on growing old and losing memory of the past.
Tatiana Cuevas kemp
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Apr 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
novel,1st edition
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Harriet Scott Chessman is happy to announce the upcoming publication of her newest novel, The Lost Sketchbook of Edgar Degas (March 2017, Outpost 19), about Degas' five-month sojourn with his American cousins in New Orleans.

Chessman's acclaimed novels include The Beauty of Ordinary Things, Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, Someone Not Really Her Mother, and Ohio Angels. Her fiction has bee