The Joy Luck Club
A bounty of mothers awaits us in Amy Tan’s novel: four Chinese mothers and their four American-born daughters. The mothers form a mah jong group, which they call the Joy Luck Club. While playing and eating dim sum, we learn each of their stories as well as those of their daughters. This remarkable book spans eight characters, two countries, and almost a half century, proving that the issues between mothers and daughters are both timeless and universal.
This Is Where I Leave You
A mother conniving to bring her family together to sit shiva (the Jewish ritual for mourning a death) for their father doesn’t sound like it would be an amusing read, but Jonathan Tropper’s dysfunctional family will not only have you laughing, but appreciating your own family a bit more. The sibling banter is witty, the turns of phrase whimsical, and despite centering on a father’s death, the story is surprisingly upbeat.
I Don't Know How She Does It
The myth of having it all is alive and well and making mothers everywhere insane. This humorous novel takes that myth and rips it to shreds, as Kate tries to juggle being a hedge fund manager, a wife, and a mother. From the moment the novel opens, with Kate “distressing” a store-bought pie for her child’s school bake sale, you’ll know this is a woman you’d want to befriend.
For every mother who, when told, “Treasure those first years. They go by so fast,” wants to scream, “Not fast enough!,” Anne Lamott’s memoir is a refreshing and reassuring consolation. Lamott doesn’t make pretty those late night feedings and endless diapers, and this book will bolster your confidence that, yes, you are doing it right even if it feels like hell sometimes.
Dept. of Speculation
The unnamed wife in this thought-provoking novel combs through her life in episodic musings to try and piece together the course of her marriage. Her meditations on motherhood are both funny and moving, and this is the kind of book you’ll devour in a single day.
The Color of Water
McBride’s mother was a Polish Jewish immigrant who lived in a town where she was isolated for being both Jewish (by her white neighbors) and white (by her African-American neighbors). Despite the societal pressures, she married a black man and ended up having twelve children. The memoir, told in alternating chapters, tells the story of both McBride and his mother and is most certainly a worthy tribute to the woman who raised him.
Jennifer S. Brown
In much of literature, mothers fall into stereotypes: the smothering mother, the distant mother, the hipster mother. The mothers in these stories reach beyond the cliché and highlight the bond between mother and child or at least provide a family story so fun and refreshing that you can live with a trope or two. This topic is close to my heart: My first novel Modern Girls, which is set in New York City’s Jewish immigrant community in 1935, examines a mother and a daughter each wrestling with unthinkable choices that will force them to confront their beliefs and may irreparably change their worlds forever.
Featured image: Orkidia/Shutterstock
Author photo by Jim Pogozelski