Remembrances of pure feeling

Monday Book Review

May 02, 1994|By Elizabeth Glazer

MOTHERS: MEMORIES, DREAMS AND REFLECTIONS BY LITERARY DAUGHTERS. Edited by Susan Cahill. Penguin Books. 331 pages. $5.99.

SHE REACHES over to hold my hand. Suddenly, she speaks familiar words in a voice I have never heard before. It is pure feeling. It says, 'I love you more than life, my daughter. I love you more than life.' "

With these words Kim Chernin, author of several novels, ends the epilogue of "In My Mother's House: A Daughter's Story," one of many selections included in the delightful volume "Mothers: Memories, Dreams, and Reflections by Literary Daughters." This book is pure feeling, and with Mother's Day just around the corner this collection of essays and excerpts ought not be overlooked.

Editor Susan Cahill has brought together some of the most wonderfully written and moving accounts of the bond between mother and daughter ever compiled from the writings of women authors.

From Simone de Beauvoir's story of time spent with her dying mother in "A Very Easy Death" to Lillian Hellman's frustration with her mother's Alabama relatives in "An Unfinished Woman," the feelings evoked cover the emotional spectrum, ensuring there will be something of interest for every reader.

For example, in an excerpt from "Memories of a Dublin Childhood," author Elizabeth Bowen writes touchingly on a subject women the world over have shared. Of her mother's appearance, she writes: "Her beauty -- for I know now it was beauty -- was too elusive and too fine for a child to appreciate: I thought I only thought she was lovely because I loved her."

Contrast that with Margaret Mead's level-headed recollection in "Blackberry Winter: My Earliest Years": "I had the clearest sense of what she was," the redoubtable Ms. Mead writes of her own mother.

The "pure feeling" of these women authors is revealed in every nuance of these stories and memoirs. Readers will smile when Pulitzer Prize winner Eudora Welty describes how she repeatedly begged her mother to tell her where babies come from.

Similarly one must admire the fierce determination of Faye Moskowtiz's mother in the passage describing how that proud woman held her family together physically and emotionally through the depths of the Depression.

One could go on citing beautiful quotes and heart-warming anecdotes from this charming collection. It is filled with examples of the love, respect and admiration in which mothers are held by their daughters and suffused with emotions that surge across its pages like an electric current -- or like ripples of pure feeling.

Elizabeth Glazer is an English major at Towson State University.

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