Monday, May 11, 2009

Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl's Not Becoming My Mother & Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way is probably the book I should have reviewed on Mother's Day. The editor in chief of Gourmet told stories about her mother in previous memoirs, including Comfort Me with Apples and Tender at the Bone. In this small book, Reichl acknowledges that she's only given one-sided versions of her mother up until now.

Miriam Reichl was not a typical mother. Reader's of Reichl's books will remember what Reichl calls "Mim Tales", stories of her mother as a terrible cook, who didn't mind a little mold on the food, and the woman who sent guests to the hospital with food poisoning at her son's engagement party. And, she includes a few of those stories in this book, including a horrifying story of a concoction for a Brownies meeting. But, in this book, Reich says that she wakes up every morning grateful she is not her mother, grateful she did not live her mother's life.

Miriam Reichl's parents were immigrants to Cleveland, who were passionate for culture. And, they pushed Miriam, against her wishes, to be everything they wanted, rather than what she wanted in life. They pushed her into music, into marriage, and into a life she wasn't suited for. She was one of that generation of women, after World War II, who were smart and competent, but condemned to stay home as a wife and mother. Miriam was not suited to that role.

Ruth's discovery of a cache of letters forced her to the realization that her mother wanted so much more for her daughter. Miriam wanted her daughter to have opportunities and options that she never had.

In Not Becoming My Mother, Ruth Reichl tells some familiar stories of her mother. But, she also writes a love letter to the woman who raised her and allowed her to make her own path in life. And, she sends a thank you letter to those women who, trapped in their generation, gave those of us who are their daughters and granddaughters, the chance to lead our lives. It's a book that might open our eyes, and allow us to say thank you to our own mothers. So, thank you, Ruth Reichl.

Ruth Reichl's website is

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Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl. Penguin Group (USA), ©2009. ISBN 9781594202162 (hardcover), 128p.


Melanie said...

Sounds like a great book. I have always been thankful that I grew up in the generation I did and wasn't forced into that wife/mother role.

teabird said...

Good review - I can identify with Ruth's relationship with her mother -

Janet Rudolph said...

Can't wait to read this. It's on my shelf. Too many mysteries, too little time, but this is not a mystery. Maybe I'll make time?

Lesa said...

I agree Melanie. I think I would have been a terrible person if I'd been forced into that role.

Lesa said...

Thanks, Teabird. I can't relate to the relationship, but I do feel bad that she never understood her mother until her mother was gone.

Lesa said...


I understand what you say about too many mysteries. If you get a chance, this is just 128 pages. You'll sail through it.