The best books on the drama, conflict, loyalty, and love of the mother-daughter knot

Laura Davis Author Of The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story
By Laura Davis

The Books I Picked & Why

American Daughter: A Memoir

By Stephanie Thornton Plymale, Elissa Wald

Book cover of American Daughter: A Memoir

Why this book?

What I loved most about this book was the determined persistence of the author to rise above the negligence and abandonment she suffered in childhood to become a decent, functioning, compassionate adult, one who ultimately takes the time to understand her mother’s history. Stephanie Thornton Plymale had every reason to walk away from her damaged mother and never look back, but she doesn’t. I love that she found the courage and empathy to move beyond her own difficult past to understand her mother’s history. I was riveted by this compelling, beautifully crafted book.

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Motherland: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing

By Elissa Altman

Book cover of Motherland: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing

Why this book?

There are so many things I loved about Motherland, it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, Elissa Altman is a brilliant writer and a great storyteller. Her portrayal of her dramatic, narcissistic mother created a flawed, human, larger-than-life character I will never forget. Elissa moves us through time effortlessly, at one moment vividly portraying herself as a child and in the next, seamlessly bringing in the voice of wisdom—her adult voice now—as we watch her struggle to make peace with the past. I deeply resonated with the love and hate, attachment and resentment that ricocheted between this unforgettable mother-daughter pair. I love books that grab me and don’t let me go. Motherland definitely had me hooked all the way from beginning to end. I hated leaving Altman’s world behind. I didn’t want the book to end.

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The Glimpse

By Lis Bensley

Book cover of The Glimpse

Why this book?

I loved diving into this novel about mother-daughter artists and the devotion, love, and competition that binds them together. Personally, I have no skill or passion for painting or photography—the gifts granted the characters in this book—but as I immersed myself in Bensley’s world, I began seeing the world as visual artists do. That was an unexpected bonus to an already compelling intergenerational story. As I hungrily turned pages, eager to discover what would happen to the characters next, I loved learning about art, the sexism of the art world, and the compelling need to create regardless of external validation.

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Wild Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me

By Adrienne Brodeur

Book cover of Wild Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me

Why this book?

I read Wild Game in a weekend—and that’s unusual for me, but I just couldn’t put the book down. Brodeur brought me into a world of treachery, lies, and mother-daughter entanglement that I found absolutely compelling. The mother in this book, Malabar, is a larger-than-life character whose willingness to sacrifice her daughter’s well-being for her own ends was horrifying and believable. I rooted for the daughter all the way through this beautifully crafted book, but it was the mother I found unforgettable.

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Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama

By Alison Bechdel

Book cover of Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama

Why this book?

I adore graphic novels, and a graphic memoir is even better. I love when the medium of a cartoon encompasses such depth and nuance. Are You My Mother is funny, visually stunning, and addictive to read. I loved the honest, flawed, human portrayals of the mother and daughter in this book—as well as the other characters. I was riveted from the first page to last and read this book in one delicious sitting.

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