Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the seventh book I've read for my 2013 TBR Pile reading challenge. It puts me back on track for my book-a-month goal, as well as my enjoyment of books I'd been meaning to read for a while. I'd picked this book up years ago when I met the author, and have enjoyed everything else I'd read of hers. Why, then, did I hesitate to read this?
That answer is easy: it's about a mother of four daughters who dies of cancer. The last time I almost picked this book up to read, my own mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I felt I would jinx her recovery if I read about a similar mother dying. (My mother has made a full recovery and is doing well. She's been cancer-free for two years.)
The girls' ages are far more spread than that of me and my sisters. The oldest in this book is in her 40's, while the youngest is still in high school. (The British equivalent thereof, anyway.) They're also a lot closer, both geographically and emotionally. They bemoan the distance between them, but they also consider it odd to have not spoken to one another for months, whereas my sisters and I catch up primarily on Facebook, and go years at a time without hearing one another's voices.
The story, itself, follows the four women in the aftermath of their mother's death. She left them letters, and a journal of her life and thoughts. She loved them dearly, but she also sheltered them from certain truths about her life while she was alive. The story lacks any major conflicts, but the sisters' relationships and personalities pull the reader through to the end. I never felt like the story dragged, despite the lack of a strong narrative thread.
The sisters are initially hard to tell apart. Their names are so generic and interchangeable that I had a hard time keeping track, and the omniscient narration didn't help. Perspectives shift from one paragraph to the next, in some passages. So, while each section may list a perspective character, it doesn't stick to that one character enough to solidify that person. By the end, I had them sorted out, but it took me nearly two thirds of the book.
Overall, I liked this book. It starts off bittersweet, but turns into a story about celebrating love and life, and making the most of what one has. I think I'm glad I didn't read it when I was worried for my own mother, though. The opening sections, immediately after the mother's death, would've been more than I could take.
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