Book Review: "Mothers and Daughters" by Rae Meadows

Summary from Samantha is lost in the joys of new motherhood—the softness of her eight-month-old daughter's skin, the lovely weight of her child in her arms—but in trading her artistic dreams to care for her child, Sam worries she's lost something of herself. And she is still mourning another loss: her mother, Iris, died just one year ago.

When a box of Iris's belongings arrives on Sam's doorstep, she discovers links to pieces of her family history but is puzzled by much of the information the box contains. She learns that her grandmother Violet left New York City as an eleven-year-old girl, traveling by herself to the Midwest in search of a better life. But what was Violet's real reason for leaving? And how could she have made that trip alone at such a tender age?

In confronting secrets from her family's past, Sam comes to terms with deep secrets from her own. Moving back and forth in time between the stories of Sam, Violet, and Iris, Mothers and Daughters is the spellbinding tale of three remarkable women connected across a century by the complex wonder of motherhood.

I've always enjoyed stories about mothers and daughters and I love books that take the view point from several female members of the same family. This story consists of three generations of women: a daughter, her mother, and her grandmother. Samantha receives a box from her brother that belonged to their mother who had passed away recently. Inside the box she discovers information about her grandmother that she never knew before. The book switches narration between the three women as the reader finds out more about these revelations.

I have always been fascinated and saddened by the orphan train so I found Violet's story very intriguing. My heart goes out to the shamed stigma of being an orphan or having your parents abandon you. I could only imagine the hurt, confusion and pain that went on in the minds of those children. The worse would be for those who kept getting passed over. This would be the ultimate humiliation because nobody wanted you. I guess out of all three of the women, Iris's story is probably the least interesting of the three but only because Sam's story is relevant to the present and Violet's is so unique. But even then her tale is still compelling and necessary for the story. Each woman has her own voice that brings life to this novel.

This book was very moving. There are some parts that are difficult to read because it involves a lot of sacrifice and love or even a lack of depending on the situation. Meadows' prose is wonderful and got swept up in the story of these three women. If you're in the mood for a book that is both contemporary and historical and about strong women, this is the book for you.

Mothers and Daughters by Rae Meadows is published by Henry Holt and Co. (2011)

This ARC was provided by the publisher


  1. Have you read Linda Gordon's "The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction"? It's a monograph on the orphan trains and race. A group of Irish orphans were sent to an Arizona mining town to be adopted by Mexican Catholics. The white Protestant elite saw white children being adopted by Mexicans and disregarded their Catholicism. Fascinating discussion of how race and religion change with locality and in relation to each other. Also - this is the book with the great quote by a black man that he was one of the first white men in the area - because he wasn't Mexican.

  2. This one is on my shelf, waiting for me to read it-- I think I need to pick it up soon! I love the sound of the interweaving of the different perspectives.

  3. Thanks for a great review. It sounds like a heart-felt read.


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