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on April 24, 2009
Having loved Reichl's three other books and having loved the bits of her mother throughout them, I was really looking forward to this book. Right out of the box, it makes a bad first impression - it's small (really small) with large type and large margins. She starts off by recounting how stories involving her mother in her previous books were embarrassing, and consequently approaches this one cautiously. Maybe too cautiously? I liked the concept of Reichl using her mother's old letters as a framework on which to build the story, but nothing ever really happened with it. Worse than not having a solid story, this book lacks feeling, something you'd expect, and hope, to find so prevalent in a daughter's retelling of her mother's life. What you get here is a plain vanilla version of the story of an intersting, colorful woman that reads more like a Wikipedia biography than anything else.

The woman in Reichl's other books was so real, so believable, so much like other women I've known from that generation all stitched together. That woman is barely recognizable here. We learn a bit about why she became the woman she did, but nothing about that woman. Reichl's mother seems more real through a quick memory in any of her previous books than she does in all 128 pages here.

Like another reviewer, it seemed obvious to me that this was published only to satisfy a contract. Otherwise, why would it have made it to the shelf? Of all the quips about her mother that Reichl has put into print, this is the most embarrassing. Save your money and wait to find this one in the bargain bin.
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on June 26, 2009
Yes, it's small and if you're looking for another of Reichl's complex food memoirs, you will be disappointed. Instead, this is a moving account of how Reichl rediscovered her mother through her mother's letters and notes.

Reichl's first memoir, Tender at the Bone, contained a lot of her mother and most of what was there was difficulty-- a mother mental illness with no talent for being a homemaker. This new work examines why her mother was a homemaker at all and the resounding answer is that she, like so many other women at that time, had no other choice.

In the end, what makes this book truly revelatory is that fact that it does the work that so many daughters cannot-- she tells her mother's story and by telling that story, Reichl comes to understanding. Then you can feel forgiveness in the pages and that forgiveness transformed into gratefulness. This book wasn't what I expected at all but I am so happy to have found it.
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on April 21, 2009
I have really enjoyed so many of Ruth Reichl's previous books and I JUST got my Kindle, so I was really excited to make this my first purchase. Sigh, I was so excited, I didn't realize it was a slim, slim volume. 128 pages or so. I finished it in about an hour. This should have been an article in the New Yorker, not a book. Glad I didn't pay to have the hardcover. It was a nice little story, but again, not a book, more an essay. Ah well, I will wait for the next one to come out.
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on April 26, 2009
I bought this on the Kindle, so I had no idea how short it was. If I had, I wouldn't have purchased it. I'm a big fan of Reichl's books, and am very puzzled why she's published this. As I read it, I kept wondering when the real book was going to start. It's a prelude, or a magazine article, not a book. Save your money and get it from the library; it's not worth the price.
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on May 22, 2009
I enjoyed Reichl's previous memoirs but was disappointed by this book. I understand the motivation to make sense of a difficult relationship with a mother who even when described in sugar-coated terms comes across as a bitter, attention-seeking monster. But by blaming society and her own grandmother for her mother's misery - a misery that mother was willing to inflict on all those around her - Reichl cops out.

In retrospect, with her mother long gone, Reichl finds a way to reassess her mother's cruel statements. They weren't insults! They weren't messages that nothing you do will ever be good enough! They were lessons designed to help her daughter have a better life! I'm not convinced. Nothing in this vivid portrait supports the conclusion that "Mom" was anything other than selfish, angry and judgmental. It is a testament to Reichl's strength and intelligence that she was able to make her mother a likable character in her previous books. To try and justify her mother's behavior by seeing good intentions that probably weren't there is understandable, but doesn't ring true.
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on November 9, 2009
When my mother died I scoured the corners of her home for her. She was neat to a fault...leaving nary a note or memo or letter. She had neatly listed each item of jewelry she owned and written my name or my sister's name next to it...so we wouldn't fight over it.

But there was no box of letters or notes to mine for the stories. So, my mother, a lifelong story teller, left a void.

And when combined with Ruth's clean, compact story telling the book is a gift..a treasure.
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on April 23, 2009
My feelings are so close to the first reviewer's that it seems almost redundant to write this. I am a big fan of Reichl's, but after the richness and density of her first 3 books, this slim little tale is a letdown. Reichl's zesty, earthy style is nowhere in evidence here. In actuality it is 110 pages of reading with copious front and backmatter. The pages are small, and the type is large. I, too, read it in an hour, and I agree that it would have made a great New Yorker article. It feels very "blown up" into a book. (Did she, perhaps, need to satisfy a 4-book contract?? No doubt "reviewers" will promote it as a great Mother's Day gift.) Like Reichl, I think we all live out our adult lives in reaction to what we knew as children--on some level and to a certain degree we either accept or reject it and move on. The fact that Reichl's mother was more of a character who wanted more for her daughter is probably more interesting to Ruth herself than anyone else--I think most mothers want the best for their kids. I am glad that she's made peace with her memories of her mom, but to be honest, I don't think readers of this book will come away any the richer for it.
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on May 1, 2009
I too was disappointed when I received this book. It was so small and the font was quite large. I felt gypped. Nevertheless, I kept an open mind and hoped that in the scant pages would be more of the Reichl gems I have so enjoyed in the past. Not so much. I agree with the other reviewers who said that this book felt like it was written by someone else. There was a real disconnect from her earlier writing. The content could have been great but it just fell flat. The book felt incomplete, as if it was her outline for the book she planned to write but when she turned this in the publisher said "this will do." I kept reading, hoping that the real juicy stuff was coming but it never did. I am perplexed because Reichl's other books were so vivid and inviting. Some of the anecdotes in this book were captured in her earlier books so this feels quite redundant. I didn't hate this book, but I certainly cannot recommend it. If you are still curious, wait for a cheap paperback or used copy but save your money for now.
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on June 15, 2015
I adore Ruth Reichl. She's an amazing writer & foodie. This short-ish novel is about her fractured and ever-changing relationship with her mom. Love Ms.Reichl's writing style, but did not enjoy this novel as much as her other autobiographical novels, "Tender to the Bone," "Comfort me with Apples," and "Garlic and Sapphires." Unsure as to whether this was due to it being only 120 pages or whether I became annoyed with her mother! Note that this novel is also published under the name "For You Mom, Finally"
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This book starts with a bang as Ruth's mother concocts a most disgusting snack of moldy chocolate pudding, old, hard marshmallows and canned peaches for Ruth's Girl Scout troop. I settled in for more.

Ruth's mother, Miriam, was told in clear print in a letter written to her by her father that although she was smart, she was homely and the odds of catching a husband were going to be slim but that should be her goal in life. With that encouragement, Miriam marries and two years later is divorced.

Living in a time when cooking cleaning and being married were, for a woman, the measure of her success, Miriam finds it very difficult to be okay with that for her life's goal. Miriam is determined not to be a typical housewife and becomes increasingly depressed because in the end she is very typical for her day.

Ruth Reichl takes us through her mother's life via a box of letters, news clippings, scrawled notes and paraphernalia to discover who her mother really was.

Unfortunately the story is common and ultimately uninteresting. It is the story of many, many women of the mid century, smart, talented and charming who ultimately end up at home raising a family and not pursuing a career. It seemed to all come down to happiness is finding a fulfilling career. And it rang hollow.
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