Today’s book review is about memoirist, Vivian Gornick’s book – Fierce Attachments.
Gornick’s story takes us back to her childhood in the Bronx, alternating with scenes into the present and past, sharing her life in moments with her strong-willed mother in what reads as her life long struggle to separate from her mother to gain her independence, yet can’t seem to abandon the thread that bonds.
In this deeply etched and haunting memoir, Vivian Gornick tells the story of her lifelong battle with her mother for independence. There have been numerous books about mother and daughter, but none has dealt with this closest of filial relations as directly or as ruthlessly. Gornick’s groundbreaking book confronts what Edna O’Brien has called “the prinicpal crux of female despair”: the unacknowledged Oedipal nature of the mother-daughter bond.
Born and raised in the Bronx, the daughter of “urban peasants,” Gornick grows up in a household dominated by her intelligent but uneducated mother’s romantic depression over the early death of her husband. Next door lives Nettie, an attractive widow whose calculating sensuality appeals greatly to Vivian. These women with their opposing models of femininity continue, well into adulthood, to affect Gornick’s struggle to find herself in love and in work.
As Gornick walks with her aged mother through the streets of New York, arguing and remembering the past, each wins the reader’s admiration: the caustic and clear-thinking daughter, for her courage and tenacity in really talking to her mother about the most basic issues of their lives, and the still powerful and intuitively-wise old woman, who again and again proves herself her daughter’s mother.
Unsparing, deeply courageous, Fierce Attachments is one of the most remarkable documents of family feeling that has been written, a classic that helped start the memoir boom and remains one of the most moving examples of the genre.
My 5 Star Review
An emotional recanting with unrest looking into the family history, relationships, disappointments, struggles and triumphs between mother and daughter, Vivian Gornick, as she analyzes her life in vignettes in dialogue with her mother in present time, discussing stories and issues of the past, learning with sharing views on their live’s from different eras and circumstances in these richly woven stories.
The story takes us through depression time struggles, longing for self-satisfaction, unrequited love, compassion, anger, hurt, questioning fidelity, death, survival, and nonfulfillment as we learn about each of these strong-willed women’s characters.
In Gornick’s efforts to gain her independence from her mother, while learning to accept each other’s differences and ironic similarities, we find these two women coming back to one another full circle, such as life often happens.