Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My Mother's Daughter by Rona Maynard

It's not clear to me why I wanted to read former Chatelaine editor Rona Maynard's new memoir My Mother's Daughter. I am hardly the target demographic and I often have problems with memoirs-- usually that they fail to be Annie Dillard's An American Childhood. But Maynard was familiar to me-- she and Sally Armstrong, whose letters would grace the magazines that came into our house while I was growing up. I was also intrigued to discover that her sister was Joyce Maynard, she of the controversial memoir and JD Salinger fame.

And so I read My Mother's Daughter, Maynard's account of her relationship with her difficult mother. Though I found their relationship less interesting than their respective experiences as women in the twentieth century. Their struggles are not those I would identify with (Maynard's mother had to leave her job as an academic when she became pregnant; the conflict Maynard faced as a working mom) but that lack of identification is the very point. It's important that women my age know what not to take for granted.

Maynard's family dynamics were more difficult to read about-- references to her sister as "The Adorable One" were a bit painful, and I'm not sure if they was supposed to be. Further, the episodic nature of the work meant that parts of the story felt glossed over. But Maynard is a really wonderful writer, deft with prose, and her life has been inherently interesting (if not always where she thinks it should be). I enjoyed reading this book, and I imagine fans of Maynard's Chatelaine work will find much with which they can identify.