My Sunday Book Review is once again for another Alice Hoffman book – Everything My Mother Taught Me, albeit, a short read, nonetheless, powerful. This book, as does most of Hoffman’s books, offers up lessons, which makes it right up my reading alley. The very first paragraph of this book reads:
“There are those who insist that mothers are born with love for their children and place them before all other things, including their own needs and desires. This was not the case with us.”
Young Adeline informs us, her mother ruined both hers and her father’s life, yet, failed to notice. “She was the sort of person who saw only herself and her shadow, and the rest of us disappeared in the bright sunlight.”
That was enough to grab my attention as the introduction brought up a flashback of my own life and mother, as some of you who have read my books will be familiar with. This story resonated with me, especially the line where Adeline describes the adoration her father held for her mother, regardless of the fact she wasn’t worthy of his adoration: “Perhaps he was a fool, because even after all she’d done, he was most likely still in love with her on the day he died.” That line really hit home with me, because that was my father.
In this haunting short story of loyalty and betrayal, a young woman in early 1900s Massachusetts discovers that in navigating her treacherous coming-of-age, she must find her voice first.
For fatefully observant Adeline, growing up carries an ominous warning from her adulterous mother: don’t say a word. Adeline vows to never speak again. But that’s not her only secret. After her mother takes a housekeeping job at a lighthouse off the tip of Cape Ann, a local woman vanishes. The key to the mystery lies with Adeline, the silent witness. New York Times bestselling author of The Rules of Magic Alice Hoffman crafts a beautiful, heart-wrenching short story.
Alice Hoffman’s Everything My Mother Taught Me is part of Inheritance, a collection of five stories about secrets, unspoken desires, and dangerous revelations between loved ones. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single setting. By yourself, behind closed doors, or shared with someone you trust.
My 5 Star Review:
This book is an Amazon short of only 24 pages, but Hoffman, as usual, can pack a zinger in a story, and she has done well by fleshing out 12 year old Adeline’s character and that of her mother Nora, perfectly, despite the length of this story.
The story begins with Adeline sharing stories about how she adored her father and shares some of the lousy things her mother did to her as an emotionally absent mother focused on herself and her own needs, and she reminds her daughter not to tell her father the bad things she’d found out about her mother. Adeline makes a decision to no longer speak again after her mother’s warning.
The story takes place off the coast of Massachusetts on the island of Cape Ann after the death of Adeline’s father, where Nora and her daughter are forced to move to the Lighthouse for work and shelter along with the Fuller, Ford and Ballard families. Nora doesn’t like doing work and passes the load onto her daughter while Nora begins an affair with Rowan Ballard who happens to be married to Julia. Adeline and Julia become very close, as Julia treats her like the mother Adeline wished she had.
Adeline remains true to her vow to keep silent and communicates by writing notes. She comes up with a plan to help Julia leave her philandering husband, which becomes a karmic occasion for the wrong-doers and gives wings to Adeline and Julia. I’m going to leave it here because continuing on with what happens would be spoilers, so I recommend picking up a copy of the book to find out what transpires.