From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The slender size of Reichl's memoir of her late mother's life belies its powerful tale of a young woman, Miriam Brudno, who bowed to societal and familial pressure to become a wife and a mother over pursuing a fulfilling career. While Reichl, editor-in-chief of Gourmet
magazine, is well known for writing about her culinary adventures (Tender at the Bone
; Garlic and Sapphires
), this beautifully crafted homage follows a more personal path as she pushes past Mim Tales—stories she told about her mother to entertain her readers and friends—to dive deep into her mother's diaries and letters, paying tribute to a woman who was raised when good women didn't work if they didn't have to. So Miriam Brudno struggled to fit the mold of the perfect housewife, until she finally told a friend, Who cares about menus... when there are so many more interesting things to think about? When Reichl discovers an unopened letter to herself, she reads that her mother was cheering me on and pointing out that I had an obligation, both to myself and to her, to use my life well. Reichl has created a masterful portrait of a mother-daughter relationship that will resonate with readers across generations. (Apr.)
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Irreverently immortalized as the klutzy cook who renounced edibility in favor of creativity, Reichl’s mother, and her quirky kitchen habits,provided frivolous fodder for Reichl’s previous culinary memoirs. But in this keenly felt retrospective, Reichl reveals another side of her mother, whose life seemed a shining example of what not to do. Where once Miriam harbored visions of being a doctor and applied her formidable intellect in the business world, she ultimately subjugated her own ambition and desires in favor of those of her family, thus providing her daughter with a seemingly negative role model. Sadly typical of her time and generation, Miriam surrendered personal dreams to suit society’s restrictive ideals of feminine conduct, and paid a steep psychic price. Only upon discovering a hidden trove of diaries and letters after Miriam’s death was Reichl able to understand the full extent of her mother’s sacrifices. Candid and insightful, Reichl’s intensely personal and fiercely loving tribute acknowledges her mother as both the source and inspiration behind her success. --Carol Haggas