Mother Daughter Me
by Katie Hafner

Overview - The complex, deeply binding relationship between mothers and daughters is brought vividly to life in Katie Hafner's remarkable memoir, an exploration of the year she and her mother, Helen, spent working through, and triumphing over, a lifetime of unresolved emotions.  Read more...

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More About Mother Daughter Me by Katie Hafner
The complex, deeply binding relationship between mothers and daughters is brought vividly to life in Katie Hafner's remarkable memoir, an exploration of the year she and her mother, Helen, spent working through, and triumphing over, a lifetime of unresolved emotions.
Dreaming of a "year in Provence" with her mother, Katie urges Helen to move to San Francisco to live with her and Zoe, Katie's teenage daughter. Katie and Zoe had become a mother-daughter team, strong enough, Katie thought, to absorb the arrival of a seventy-seven-year-old woman set in her ways.
Filled with fairy-tale hope that she and her mother would become friends, and that Helen would grow close to her exceptional granddaughter, Katie embarked on an experiment in intergenerational living that she would soon discover was filled with land mines: memories of her parents' painful divorce, of her mother's drinking, of dislocating moves back and forth across the country, and of Katie's own widowhood and bumpy recovery. Helen, for her part, was also holding difficult issues at bay.
How these three women from such different generations learn to navigate their challenging, turbulent, and ultimately healing journey together makes for riveting reading. By turns heartbreaking and funny--and always insightful--Katie Hafner's brave and loving book answers questions about the universal truths of family that are central to the lives of so many.
Praise for "Mother Daughter Me"
"The most raw, honest and engaging memoir I've read in a long time."--KJ Dell'Antonia, "The New York Times"
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"A brilliant, funny, poignant, and wrenching story of three generations under one roof, unlike anything I have ever read."--Abraham Verghese, author of "Cutting for Stone"
"Weaving past with present, anecdote with analysis, Katie] Hafner's riveting account of multigenerational living and mother-daughter frictions, of love and forgiveness, is devoid of self-pity and unafraid of self-blame. . . . Hafner is] a bright--and appealing--heroine."--Cathi Hanauer, "Elle"
" A] frank and searching account . . . Currents of grief, guilt, longing and forgiveness flow through the compelling narrative.""--"Steven Winn, "San Francisco Chronicle"
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"A touching saga that shines . . . We see how years-old unresolved emotions manifest.""--"Lindsay Deutsch," USA Today"
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" Hafner's] memoir shines a light on nurturing deficits repeated through generations and will lead many readers to relive their own struggles with forgiveness."--Erica Jong, "People"
"An unusually graceful story, one that balances honesty and tact . . . Hafner narrates the events so adeptly that they feel enlightening."--"Harper's"
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"Heartbreakingly honest, yet not without hope and flashes of wry humor."--"Kirkus Reviews"
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" An] emotionally raw memoir examining the delicate, inevitable shift from dependence to independence and back again."--"O: The Oprah Magazine "(Ten Titles to Pick Up Now)
"Scrap any romantic ideas about what goes on when a 40-something woman invites her mother to live with her and her teenage daughter for a year. As Hafner hilariously and touchingly tells it, being the center of a family sandwich is, well, complicated."--"Parade"

  • ISBN-13: 9781400069361
  • ISBN-10: 140006936X
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Publish Date: July 2013
  • Page Count: 268

Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Women
Books > Family & Relationships > General

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-05-13
  • Reviewer: Staff

In a curiously optimistic but ultimately doomed experiment in communal living, journalist and author Hafner (The Well) invites her 77-year-old mother, Helen, to share the household she and her teenage daughter set up together in Lower Pacific Heights, San Francisco. All three have high hopes (“How Chinese of you!” exclaimed one friend, in admiration), despite some intergenerational emotional baggage: namely, Helen’s drinking and inability to take care of the author and her sister as children; the death of Hafner’s husband, Matt, eight years before, which left their only daughter, Zoe, with intense fears of abandonment; and the grudges and resentful interdependence to which all three women are prone. Old patterns swiftly reemerge. A pianist and former computer programmer, Helen voices subtle but insidious criticism of Zoe’s musical intonation, and secretly harbors suspicion that her daughter asked her to live with her only because of Helen’s money. Meanwhile the author is frankly appalled by her mother’s frostiness and efforts to exert control, especially over the men Hafner dates. And 16-year-old Zoe displays shocking brattyness and ill manners toward her grandmother. Their year of living together elicits enormous spiritual growth, though not necessarily the way they envision. Sadly, the narrative is tedious, but some well-intentioned familial reckoning emerges. Agent: Jim Levine, Levine Greenberg Literary. (July)

BookPage Reviews

Three generations under one roof

Journalist and author Katie Hafner kept no secrets where her difficult upbringing was concerned. Moved from place to place with her older sister by their self-involved, alcoholic mother, the two girls were ultimately removed from her custody but remained in touch with her over the years. When her mother fell on hard times in 2009, Hafner decided to forge a new bond by bringing her to San Francisco and a home shared with Hafner’s 16-year-old daughter. Their idealized experiment in multigenerational living quickly became contentious and unlivable. Mother Daughter Me tells their story, then sifts through the fallout for larger truths about the roles of parent and child.

Hafner has said throughout her life that “parents do the best they can, given what they have to work with,” and somehow hewing strongly to that belief has allowed her to be both forthright and compassionate in portraying her mother (whose name is changed in the book). Hafner’s mother was a genuine monster early on, but stabilized considerably in later life. Her struggles to connect with her daughter and granddaughter at age 77 could be seen as deserved comeuppance, but Hafner also directs our attention to her mother’s skilled work at starting a new life in a new city, and her admiration does not feel grudging in the least. Their fights are real, and often have unexpectedly deep roots, but the love is constant as well.

This is a heavy story—not just a memoir of parents and children but of infidelity, job loss and death—but Hafner can apply a light touch as needed. Anyone who has cared for an aging parent will identify as she and her mother stock their new kitchen with combined utensils. Hafner is insistent on hers taking up the bulk of the space, in part as testament to her superiority as a parent and provider, a sentiment she considers “too obnoxiously smug to say in words. So I say it with flatware.”

Mother Daughter Me is a story of bonds frayed well past the point of breaking, yet somehow held tight in the grip of a fierce and forgiving love.

BAM Customer Reviews