My mother sent me a one-line text the other night: “I saw Lady Bird.”
A little nervous and not sure what was being implied by her brevity, I immediately called for her take on the film that has been sweeping theaters around the country. Along with the varied themes on class, family, and teenage relationships, this story of a young woman’s coming-of-age seems to have struck a chord for its poignant, funny, and bittersweet depiction of a mother-daughter relationship. While fumbling with my phone I wondered if my own mother had the same reaction I did, that it somehow perfected the odd juxtaposition between parents and children, where you both know everything and nothing about one another, and it sometimes feels as though your whole life is spent evolving in relation to them.
It’s clear why this relationship is mined so often in storytelling, but rarely does a novel or film capture this intersection of individuality, utter dependency, and the indelibly sweet, complex love within families so well. Luckily, there are a few authors who have mastered just that.
Laura hails from the Upper East Side, born into old money and drifting aimlessly through 1980s New York. Then, after a romantic weekend with a stranger, Laura realizes she’s pregnant. Enter: Emma. Told in vignettes ranging from profound to mundane, with utterly New York scenes of blue-blood Manhattan society and subway weeping, this tender debut is a celebration of the odd, unexpected, and wonderful path to discovering where we belong.
Bernadette Fox is many things depending on who you ask: she’s a type-A genius turned housewife, a revolutionary architect, and a disgrace in the eyes of her fellow parents. When her teenage daughter, Bee, plans a family trip to Antarctica, Bernadette goes missing and Bee must search through emails, letters, and official documents to discover who her mother really is—and where she might have gone. This heartwarming, quirky, and humorous novel highlights the ways in which the bond between a mother and daughter can transcend the chaos around them.
Bernadette Fox is a fiercely independent wife and mother, when one day she disappears. It began when her daughter Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her agoraphobic, making a trip to the end of the earth a bit of an issue. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, and secret correspondence.
Most kids swear they’ll never move back in with their parents, preferring instead to dream of running off to Paris to live their dreams. Writer and former Vanity Fair editor George Hodgman did both, although his mother was 91 at the time and the Paris to which he moved was his hometown of Paris, Missouri. During what was to be a quick visit home, Hodgman realized how much his mother was struggling with age and dementia, and the visit soon turned into a permanent stay. A moving portrait of family told with wit and personality, BETTYVILLE is also a lovely portrayal of the changing roles of caregivers and the heart which that change can reveal.
George Hodgman’s humorous and moving memoir chronicles his struggles to care for his stubborn, aging mother Betty. Will he move her to assisted living? Will she accept that he is gay? Will they have the courage to say what is in their hearts?
You know things are bad when you wish you could simply focus on your father’s funeral. But for Judd Foxman, gathering with his eccentric family for the first time in years to sit shiva, there’s also the absence of his wife—whose affair was just made painfully public—and reconnecting with his siblings who are each dysfunctional in their own way. Author Jonathan Tropper is a charming writer who somehow manages to highlight the hilarious pandemonium of family while quietly underscoring the unbreakable ties that bind.
Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins his dysfunctional family as they reluctantly sit shiva and spend seven days and nights under the same roof. This Is Where I Leave You is a humorous, emotional novel about the ties that bind—whether we like it or not.
RIP Queen Carrie Fisher, whose brilliance was revealed in ever-greater quantities towards the end of her life. This autobiographical novel, however, was written only a few years after her scene-stealing role as Princess Leia. POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE doesn’t take place in a galaxy far far away, but stars a Los Angeles actress who opens the satirical novel by writing letters from rehab. The story follows the highs and lows of attempting to readjust to life after addiction, reconnect with her family, and find love and work in a town that demands women fit into a box.
In her first novel, Carrie Fisher drew on her own experiences in Hollywood and with addiction to tell the story of Suzanne Vale, a young actress in the harrowing and hilarious throes of drug rehabilitation. A semi-autobiographical novel, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE chronicles Suzanne’s vivid, and often funny, experiences inside a drug rehab clinic and takes a revealing look at addiction.
This cinematic novel from Irish writer Maggie O’Farrell also features a young heroine with big plans to leave home and take the world by storm. The setting here is not suburban California, but rather the genteel, English countryside–the home from which Lexie Sinclair is bursting to escape. Interwined with Lexie’s post-escape life in London’s swinging sixities is the story of another young woman, Elina, a modern Londoner drifting through the otherworldly experience of new motherhood. The ways in which these two women’s stories knit together across their half-century difference offers a lyrical, unconventional yet ultimately tender exploration into how love can bind people together.
This gorgeous and tenderly wrought story is about the ways in which love and beauty bind us together. As the stories of two new mothers unfold, a connection that they share drives the novel toward a tremendous revelation.