Read What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most by Elizabeth Benedict Maud Newton Roxana Robinson Caroline Leavitt Jean Hanff Korelitz Katha Pollitt Mary Gordon Emma Straub Online


Women look at the relationships between mothers and daughters through a new lens: a daughter's story of a gift from her mother that has touched her to the bone and served as a model, a metaphor, or a touchstone in her own life. The contributors of these thirty-one original pieces all written specifically for this book include Pulitzer Prize winners, perennial bestselling nWomen look at the relationships between mothers and daughters through a new lens: a daughter's story of a gift from her mother that has touched her to the bone and served as a model, a metaphor, or a touchstone in her own life. The contributors of these thirty-one original pieces all written specifically for this book include Pulitzer Prize winners, perennial bestselling novelists, and well-known NPR commentators. Joyce Carol Oates writes about quilts her mother sewed that were a comfort when her husband died; Rita Dove remembers a box of nail polish that taught her to paint her nails in stripes and polka dots; Lisa See, daughter of writer Carolyn See, writes about the gift of writing; Cecilia Munoz remembers the wok her mother gave her and a lifetime of home-cooked family meals; Judith Hillman Paterson revisits the year of sobriety her mother bequeathed to her when Judith was nine years old, the year before her mother died of alcoholism. Collectively, the pieces have a force that feels as elemental as the tides: outpourings of lightness and darkness; simple joy and devastating grief; mother love and daughter love; mother love and daughter rage. In these stirring words we find that every gift, no matter how modest, tells the story of a powerful bond....

Title : What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781616201357
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most Reviews

  • Monika
    2019-06-20 04:54

    I was a little nervous that What My Mother Gave Me would be a simplistic, feel-good collection of daughters' memories of their mothers, where every story is perfect and happy. I was relieved to discover that the book is much deeper and more authentic than that. This collection of essays portrays the beauty that can be found in a wide variety of mother-daughter relationships, whether the relationship was one that offered endless support and unconditional love, was terribly complicated and broken, or somewhere in between. Even daughters who experienced heartbreakingly unhappy childhoods reflected a valuable gift their mother had given them, something that greatly impacted their lives. Each piece in the book was very relatable, and gave readers the opportunity to consider complex mother-daughter relationships from different perspectives and contexts. Fond, happy memories were never overly mushy. Difficult ones weren't glossed over or whitewashed. It was refreshing, and gave the entire collection a genuine, honest feeling. Still beautiful, still sentimental, but real.* I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I did not receive any other compensation for this review. *

  • Vanessa
    2019-06-22 01:04

    "What My Mother Gave Me" is a collection of 31 essays written by different women. Each one of them shares a precious memory about a special gift they got from their mothers. Some of them focus on the material side, while others prefer to address the lessons and advices they received during their lives. They all show how small things can change our lives forever and be great reminders of who we truly are.The book is very emotional. In many moments, I felt like I should just stop reading and go hug my mom and thank her for everything. After finishing it, I think many people will also feel like they should write their own chapters.Even though some essays moved me more than others, I think this book deserves 5 stars for everything it represents.

  • Erin
    2019-06-24 00:04

    31 authors share a story about a gift they have received from their mother. All of the contributors are female, and the varying depictions of mother-daughter relationships are sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, but always deeply personal and meaningful. I really enjoyed reading this book in snatches here and there, and reflecting on my relationship with my own mother as well as my role as a mother (what would I want my son to write about me?). And of course the book causes you to reflect on what you would choose to write about it, if you could only share one gift that you mother had given you.This would be an excellent gift to any mothers in your life, especially if you inscribed it with a note about what they have given to you (or their children, in the case of a spouse/sibling/etc), and it comes out just in time for Mother's Day.**I received a free copy of this book for review via NetGalley. The opinions are my own.

  • Jeffe Kennedy
    2019-06-06 03:06

    A really excellent, very solid collection of essays - and not at all what I expected. Each one focuses on something the woman writer received from her mother, but not all in sentimental ways. The relationships span the spectrum from close and loving to horribly dysfunctional. Some gifts are material, others not. Some gifts were intended, others not so much. The writers speak from a variety of ethnic, religious and social backgrounds. In the end, however, as all the best essay collections do - an overall message emerges about the universality of the mother-daughter relationship, regardless of the specifics. Very well done. Highly recommend.And many thanks to my stepsister, Hope, for gifting it to me. :-)

  • Kate
    2019-06-28 00:52

    There are few, if any, relationships more charged than that of a mother and daughter, and yet the essays in this wonderful anthology paint that complex picture by focussing on a single gift, experience, or habit of mind passed on from mother to daughter. There are both close and distant bonds portrayed in these essays, but all of them are moving and thought-provoking: an exercise in appraising our own relationships.

  • Christa Baker
    2019-06-24 01:44

    I heard about this book from one of the lecturers at NYU Publishing Institute, and I immediately knew it'd be a great book to give as a gift to my mother. And I was very right. Before I gave it to her, I read almost the entire thing and many of the stories made me cry. It is full of wonderful stories about mother-child relationships, so my mom liked it just as much.

  • Karen
    2019-06-03 03:57

    I went to the library not knowing what book I was looking for and happened to see this one on the newly circulating shelf. It was approaching Mother's Day so I thought it would make for good intermittent reading. You know, those few minutes you have between drop off and the soccer game, or that bit of time between walking from the parking lot to work. Anyway, once I got started on these mother-daughter stories, I really began to enjoy the diverse perspectives that the authors brought to the table. After all, motherhood does mean many things and there are all types of mothers out there. Even the not so perfect moms teach lessons and sometimes where a dog pisses on the ground, she somehow fertilizes the soil in a way that allows a beautiful flower to grow. That is what some of these stories reminded me-just because I don't do it perfectly doesn't mean that it will turn out all wrong. I'm grateful to have been raised by a loving mom who made our home feel clean and safe. I'm glad she was warm and liked to play and would help with homework. We weren't friends exactly, but we liked each other's company most of the time. I've always loved her. I hope my kids will know how much I love them, how much I want to see them have both roots and wings, I want them to know that the Father has a plan for them and they are created for His purpose. I want them to know I'll love them no matter the circumstances of their lives.

  • Nancy
    2019-06-04 05:43

    Okay, Mother's Day gift this year? This book, accompanied by a letter telling your mom about a treasured something she gave you.I'm not signing off on this collection of essays in its entirety, mind. No. Some of the essays are markedly weak, and one(about the author's clerical assistant stealing her mother's jewelry) was so weird, I had to stop reading the book for a while. But overall, the stories are interesting, heartfelt, and thought-provoking. I thought about what I had given my daughters, and wondered what maternal gift I would choose to write about. (The dollhouse, y'all. My mother made me a dollhouse out of orange crates and hand towels and wrapping paper when I was eight. And let me tell you, it was awesome, and the worst thing I ever did was pass it on to my destructive cousins.)Mostly, though, what the essays made me think about was the absolutely mythic power of our images of Mother, and how we hold onto that image for a lifetime, shaping our mothers accordingly, no matter how much they try to resist being shaped. To see these often brilliant, insightful women take up neglectful, even toxic mothers, and drape them in layers of Motherly Love, was pretty awe-inspiring. Also, to read about some truly amazing mothers was pure pleasure.Thanks to the LibraryThing Early Reader Program for my ARC of this book!

  • Debby
    2019-05-28 01:42

    I know this must sound motbid, but I'd been thiking about the eventuality of my Mom's death, as she has Alzhiemer's and other health problem, and what I waned to remember about her and what I'd like to say at her funeral....whenever that may be. So, when I came across the title of this book somewhere, I knew I had to read it. I am SO glad I did. This compilation of 31 essays written by noteworthy women (well-known authors and others) is very moving, as well as humorous, thought-provoking and well, challenging. Reading each of them left some imprint on me and made me think, how would I like to be remembered by my daughter (and son). What imprint have for good or not so good, be left to them or in them, when I'm gone. This book gave me a format for much thought on living in the moment with my Mom in her final years....while she still knows who I am and she glows when given a big hug and hears "I love you Mom"!I highly recommend reading this book. I'll be reading it again. Thanks Elizabeth Benedict!

  • Iva
    2019-06-07 04:36

    Some of these mostly short essays feel dashed off, as if the author were finishing a dreaded assignment. Others, like Sheila Kohler, wrote prose as tight and interesting as her best fiction. Some took the topic literally, writing about a piece of furniture, jewellery or clothing. (Joyce Carol Oates wrote about knitted item she called a quilt that didn't reveal anything about her mother.) Others saw the opportunity to reflect on examples of how to behave, live or work. A mixed bag with some memorable pieces.

  • Kathleen Brunnett
    2019-06-28 06:45

    Very cool idea to tap into noted female writers on what their mothers gave them. For some, it was a physical object, but for others it was an emotion or attitude or opportunity. I wish the background of these 31 writers was shared either before their entry or directly after it. Instead the information was listed at the back of the book in alphabetical order. Knowing their background up front would have made me appreciate or understand their story even more.

  • Jennifer King
    2019-06-24 22:37

    These stories are told in each author's unique voice with a touching point about gifts their mothers gave them. But the stories as a whole are cohesive and flow seamlessly from one to the next. I think this would be a fantastic gift for all mothers, especially on Mother's Day.

  • Elizabeth Evans
    2019-06-09 02:50

    I didn't review the whole book, but I talked about one of the writers, Lillian Daniel, on my blog. I knew her mother and wrote about my memories of her -- at

  • Caitlin
    2019-06-14 04:54

    What My Mother Gave Me completely blew off all my windows and doors. It's not just that it made me think about the many things, tangible and intangible, that my mother (who has been gone now for 4+ years) gave me, although it did do that. It's that the voices of the writers who contributed to its pages made me think about the many and varied ways there are to be a woman. All of these writers, and certainly their many mothers, have lived rich and fascinating lives. Whether I felt kinship with them over the things their mothers gave them that mattered most or not, it was a privilege to get each woman's take on this most pivotal relationship and to catch glimpses of so many different kinds of women's lives.I finished reading What My Mother Gave Me in a fancy hotel room with a balcony overlooking the sea. My urge to come back to this east coast beach town--a place my family and I went to for the first and last time a little over three years ago to mark the first anniversary of my mother's death--grew and grew as I read. So, when the opportunity presented itself to dash off here for a couple of days, I jumped at the chance. My mother was never in this town or at this hotel that I know of, but we scattered my father's, my brother's, and, finally, her own ashes in the sea as each of them died because that way, by her reckoning, "whenever you're near the water, you're close to the person who died." That idea was foreign to me when she first proposed it when my father died many years ago, and, as a lifelong lover of cemeteries (So peaceful! So quiet! So sad!), I wasn't sure I agreed. As with so many other things, though, she was right. My mother gave me lots of things and ideas that matter more than I ever would have guessed they would at the times she gave them, but that one may be the one that matters most. That, and knowing to always go to a fancy hotel by the sea when you want to, even if you can't really afford it and common wisdom would say that you shouldn't. "You deserve it," was one of my mother's favorite refrains, and also, "Je ne regrette rien." Thanks, Mom!

  • Changerous
    2019-06-28 03:58

    What My Mother Gave Me, edited by Elizabeth Benedict, is a collection of essays by 31 women writers on “the gifts that mattered most.” Although this may seem well-traveled ground, each piece in this beautiful collection is unique and well written.The gifts are wide-ranging in scope, from the most prosaic (nail polish) to the exceptional (the gift of writing). Their impact is deep and lovely, often unexpected for the receiver, and for the reader.This is not a sentimental read: not all of these women like their mothers; many have unresolved disagreements and differences. Yet all have taken something positive and lasting from their gifts and experiences, and many of the stories reveal legacies of fortitude and love.These stories naturally made me think about the gifts my mother has given me over the years, and what I will be passing along to my children in turn, as gifts and as life lessons. One thing my mother shared was an enduring love of reading, and the strong message (by example) that it’s OK to put almost anything in life on hold if you’re caught up in a good story.I’m still contemplating what my most meaningful gift to my children might be—although I’m not sure we can determine that ourselves; the meaning may lie more in what our children take from what we offer than in what we intend to convey. Either way, I’m savoring the process.Meanwhile, I’ll be sending many mothers in my life this book for Mother’s Day. It will be a gift they can enjoy now and in the future, that celebrates the value and influence of their daily lives and actions, intended or otherwise.Brilliant Memoir of life-changing moments from a range of authors.Full disclosure: I received this book free from @AlgonquinPublishers as part of the @LibraryThings Early reviewers program.

  • Vikki
    2019-06-22 03:01

    I had to give What My Mother Gave Me five stars because I enjoyed it so much. In my eyes, it could not have been better. This book had many gifts for me, the reader.First, this was just such a good read. The authors were pretty established, great authors. So the writing styles were so enjoyable. And they really let me see a little bit about their personal lives, which I loved. I learned so many little things in this book like to grate the onions before the potatos in latkes, that Lisa See's mother Carolyn's advice for writers to write 1,000 words a day plus a charming note.Secondly, in the list of contributors there was biographies of the authors. If I liked their essay, I will go find their other novels, short stories etc. and read them. I really liked every essay so will be going to many of these author's other works. Thirdly, this book makes me think about the gifts given to me by my mother. I would have to think a long time on this one. To choose one gift to write about in a book would be extremely difficult. I could do the Top Ten given enough time. What immediately came to mind was any inherited object- like my papertowel holder that was my mothers. I love being able to touch something every day that my mother touched. But also any recipe that is in my mother's hand is a treasured object. But probably more importantly is the love of color, decorating, and fashion that my mother gave to me. This book is not scheduled to be released until April, 2013. I hope many people read it and enjoy it as much as I did. What a treat it was!

  • Jenni V.
    2019-06-13 00:47 would like to thank NetGalley and Algonquin Books for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book. The expected publication date for this book is April 2, 2013.First, a little backstory. I've spent the past week packing up my childhood home (thankfully, this transition was due to downsizing and not death), giving my mom and I many opportunities to talk about the items she saved and the stories behind them. These conversations in turn inspired me to come home and share stories and long-forgotten treasures with my kids.Needless to say, when I saw this book on NetGalley, I felt as if it had been written for me. It would be impossible not to read a book like this without considering the legacy your mother left you, or the legacy you are leaving your children, so I settled in to read this book and feel the feelings I anticipated would soon follow.Then...nothing happened. As with all books that have more than one contributor, there will be some hits and misses. In this case, the majority of the stories were average, one or two truly shone, and none were complete misses. Some may say my expectations were too high, but I disagree. The state of mind I was in while reading this book could not have placed me more squarely in the target audience - I was primed to be inspired and possibly shed a tear, and I just wasn't moved.I'm neutral about my recommendation. I certainly wouldn't discourage someone from reading it, but I'm not going out of my way to recommend it either.

  • Meg - A Bookish Affair
    2019-06-25 22:44

    I read this book just in time for Mother's Day and I actually passed on my copy of "What My Mother Gave Me" to my mom. This book is a collection of stories of what each author's mother gave her. Some gifts are tangible. Some are not. They vary from author to author. Some of the stories are happy and some of them are sad but I think that's sort of a normal reflection of the relationships that women have with their mothers. Whether happy or sad, the gifts that you get from your mother are incredibly important. They truly are things that you carry with you for your entire life, which is exactly the point that the book makes. I really, really enjoyed this book. This is a book that you will want to share with the women in your life. It would make a great gift book for just about any occasion (but do you really need an occasion to share a book??? No way; books are for anytime!!!) So many of the stories really tugged on my heart. A couple of them made me smile. A couple of them made me tear up. I suggest reading this book story by story. It's hard to stop in the middle of each story as I think you kind of lose momentum that way so make sure that you have time to sit down and read the whole story all the way through. I could see this being a great book to read one story at night or something like that. I feel that some of the stories in this book are definitely meant to be savored a little bit.Overall, this is a great book!

  • Pamela Barrett
    2019-06-24 02:59

    I spent a week weeping my way through Elizabeth Benedict’s compilation of stories aptly named What My Mother Gave Me. It was a good, cleansing weeping as the stories brought back memories of my own mother who passed away a few years ago; and just like in these stories some memories were sweet and some not so much.The stories are told by 31 women writers who share the gifts their mothers’ gave them: ones that meant the most to them. These are not all physical gifts—all though some are—these are the life affirming, wake-up, smell-the-roses moments and lessons that we may not recognize at the time, but years later we realize how precious they were and how they shaped us. I’ve told so many women about this wonderful book and how it touched me. I loved reading it. Definite 5 stars to all the writers. Thank you to Librarything E.R.

  • Literary Mama
    2019-06-18 05:37

    In her book’s introduction, Benedict writes about the panic she felt when she lost the scarf her mother had given to her: “If this one gift meant so much to me, if it unlocked the door to so much history and such complicated feelings, might other women have such a gift themselves?” That question inspired What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most, which features 31 short essays by an accomplished list of female writers, including Roxana Robinson, Ann Hood, Lisa See, Margo Jefferson, Katha Pollitt, Mary Gordon, Rita Dove, Susan Stamberg, Joyce Carol Oates, and Marge Piercy.Read Literary Mama's full review here:

  • Linda
    2019-06-01 04:00

    If you had to sum up one special gift given to you by your mother, something that mattered most and made a difference in your life, what would it be?Author Elizabeth Benedict asked the question of thirty-one women who happen to be celebrated novelists, broadcast journalists, Pulitzer Prize recipients. Their essays in the telling are as varied and unique as the gifts received, as the relationships described.Certainly at the back of my mind as the stories unfolded was the question, what gift did my mother leave me and … what gift will my daughters remember as having received from their mother.A good read.

  • Andrea
    2019-06-22 22:45

    Karen Karbo's, White Gloves and Party Manners is one of my favorite chapters. Also, Elizabeth Benedict's story about her flowered scarf and Charlotte Silver's story about her mother the restauranteur. There is even a recipe at the end of that chapter. The collection of stories, all written by accomplished writers and authors is a great book for mothers and daughters everywhere and a great way to identify talented female writers. The editor Elizabeth Benedict has inspired daughters to see gifts from their mothers in a new light. I recommend reading it, gifting it and thinking about your own mothers' gifts to you.

  • Cassandra
    2019-05-29 06:42

    I'm really close with my mom, so when I saw this book, I was immediately intrigued. Some of the stories were really moving, and some were less so. It was interesting to see what these women considered gifts and how the relationships between women differed.

  • Mandy
    2019-06-04 04:41

  • Amina
    2019-06-25 02:48

    A. And call your mother.

  • Kirsty Brown
    2019-06-03 06:39

    See my review at

  • Elaine Bearden
    2019-06-22 22:42

    adultFull disclosure - I didn't read all of the stories, but the stories (true) that the writers shared were really interesting, filled with concrete details from their lives. Really lovely.

  • Sflauchle
    2019-06-12 02:54

    Thought provoking diverse essays about influence of mother in our lives.

  • Samra
    2019-05-30 02:54

    Every female reader will no doubt hear the notes of her own story played somewhere in the book.

  • Terry Lucas
    2019-06-13 00:56

    My first book of the year and what a pleasure!