Sunday Book Review – Everything My Mother Taught Me #Shortstory by Alice Hoffman

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.





45 thoughts on “Sunday Book Review – Everything My Mother Taught Me #Shortstory by Alice Hoffman

  1. I love Alice Hoffman and her superb writing. This book sounds great. My favorite book of hers is The Dovekeepers, one of those books that never leaves you. I hope you are having a great birthday!!


  2. This sounds like a good one, Deb. I automatically thought this was written for you when I read the tag line. Is this part of a ‘collection’? Thanks for sharing your wonderful and heartfelt review, Deb. Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors.


    1. Lol Lis, it sure grabbed my attention. I enjoy Hoffman’s books too. Oddly enough, this book is said to be part of the Inheritance collection but there are no other books in this collection from my digging. Maybe it’s the first of others to come? 🙂 x


  3. This sounds like a very interesting short read, Debby. Terrible for a young girl to have a mother who is so self centred and selfish.


  4. Yes, what Jacqui said. When I began reading your review of Hoffman’s short story I was taken aback. Sounds like such a sad story, yet you highly recommend it. I think I better read it, more because I know how it relates to your true-life story, and also because I’m fascinated to see how Hoffman sells a 24-page short. Also, I love Hoffman’s novels! Doesn’t sound like there is any magical realism in this short story though.


    1. Lol Pam. Yes, I was quite intrigued how she’d do a novella in 24 pages too. You mention it doesn’t sound like magical realism, but don’t forget about Karma! Now, I’ll look forward to your thoughts after reading. ❤


  5. Thanks for the recommendation, Debby. I tend to avoid very short reads as I get attached to the characters if the story is well written and want more, but this sounds worth it. I have a few novels by Hoffman waiting to be read. After your recommendation I’ll make sure to bump them up.
    Sorry for the confusion about the other article. I have a penchant for clicking on whatever grabs my attention first on your blog and don’t always remember to check it’s the last post, but I’ve discovered quite a few gems that way, so, good job! Have a great week and I hope you enjoyed your birthday!


    1. Oh, that’s so nice to hear Olga. I like when people shmooz around my blog, lol. I’m glad you were able to find the Old Soul post. And thanks again, yes, it was a ‘different’ kind of birthday, but it was lovely ❤


  6. Well, Okay–having read your books, it’s not hard to see why you would like this story. That takes nothing at all away from the quality of the story and what you saw in it as your review captures.


  7. Incredible how an author can pack so much into 24 pages. That’s real writing talent and all of us, writers, should read stories like these to master the craft! Thanks for the review, Debby!


  8. Such an enticing review, Debby. The short story sounds powerful. And that opening paragraph and quoted line are clinchers. Thanks so much for the recommendation. 🙂 Now, to catch up on my reading! ❤


  9. I can understand why this story would have caught your attention, Deb! Sounds like a fascinating story, especially the wrinkle of Adeline’s choice to adopt silence – clearly she became a writer too!


  10. Hi Debby,

    I’m new to Alice Hoffman’s books and writing, but from what I’ve gathered here, she is a fabulous author and one not to miss. This book sounds really good, albeit sad at the same time. Wonderful review and thanks for the intro. Have a good weekend! 💕


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