Who Do You Think You Are?: A Memoir
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71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2008
'Who Do You Think You Are?' is a beautifully written book. I read it in one sitting because, from the first page, I literally could not put it down. It is such a BRAVE book: it dares to look at that most sacrosanct -- and mythologized -- relationship: mother and daughter. And it tells a truth: that not all of us like our mothers. And not all mothers like their children.

The book begins with the mother's funeral. The only thing the author wants is a wooden box that has been hidden in her mother's closet for as long as she can remember. She takes the box but does not open it, afraid of the secrets contained within. We then flash back to the 60s in a poorer neighborhood in Queens. Through tight, beautiful prose, we learn of the author's childhood.

What is magical about this book is that it is not a chronicle of some nightmare or a retelling of yet another horrifying story of abject cruelty. Rather, 'Who Do You Think You Are?' is the story of what really goes on behind the closed doors of many peoples' lives. Relationships are not perfect. People hurt one another. People damage one another. And life goes on. Especially for the survivor. Ultimately, this is a book about what it means to love and to discover that place within yourself that lets you love in spite of the hurt you have suffered. It is also a book about forgiving and how that contributes to love. This is an amazing book and one that I recommend in the highest possible terms. It's a gem.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2008
I loved this book. And I wouldn't have thought of it as my kind of book. A friend who liked it gave it to me to read and I couldn't put it down. There's something about the straightforwardness of the writing that just draws you in. My relationship with my mother wasn't as bad as that of the author, but I saw so many issues of our relationship reflected here that it really moved me. And the unexpected ending was amazing.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2010
This author did nothing to stir up empathy from the reader. She may be a lot more like her mother than she would like to think. She idolized a man who was a poor excuse for a husband and father - in her own words, from her own memories, we hear her mother's worry and panic over the blackout and his absences, with his only response being "well, I'm here now." The author didn't need to ponder the reasons for her mother's anger, depression and cruelty - she spelt it out for the reader - too bad she never figured it out for herself. Did she ever think what sort of hell her mother lived every single day, taking care of three children on her own? I was raised by a single mother, and I am in constant amazement of the burden she shouldered. Nowadays we know of post-partum depression, stress related illnesses, smoking dangers. Back then, even doctors smoked! But it gives her yet another reason to look down her nose at her mother.

Like another reviewer, I found it disturbing that the sisters didn't even merit names, just, "my middle sister" and "the younger sister". Apparently, Alyse was the only child whose feelings mattered. To Alyse, anyways. And the self-described 'good mother' Alyse turns out to be has no qualms telling the reader her response to her teenaged daughter's request to attend a funeral is, "She's your friend, not mine." Wow. Great parenting. Then she whines, "Oh, what would I know about losing a parent?" Talk about self-absorbed and cruel.

I could not identify, sympathize, or empathize with Alyse. I did, however, feel sorry for her mother many, many times.

(PS: wish I'd read the reviews first. If I'd known she was a guest on The View, I'd have steered clear. Typical whiny drivel from that bunch.)
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2011
I am not sure why the author of this memoir felt she had to publish this. It is whiny, self-indulged, lacking insight and something one would tell an analyst or therapist, not something the world needs to waste their time reading. It is just another dysfunctional family story with the author at the center. At the end I had the feeling she was saying look at all I endured but what a great person I've turned out to be. It wasn't particularly well- written; there are so many wonderful well-written memoirs out there that why spend your time on this one. As one reviewer mentioned, she never mentions her sisters by name; it is as if they don't matter. I was bothered by this book, that she felt she had to publish it. There are so many many people who have endured much worse who don't feel they have to air their family's dirty laundry to the world. Is she consciously getting back at her mother unfairly after she is dead? Don't waste time or money on this one.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2008
This totally honest memoir allows the reader to enter the life of Alyse Meyers when she was a child. It is not a pretty life. It is not a life many would want to change places with, yet it sparks a chord in us all. I read this book recently as a book club choice and it couldn't have been a better one. Not only did I find myself completely absorbed in the story and the characters, but it brought about fantastic discussion in a group. After all, we all come from a family and everyone has a story! A very worthwhile read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2009
I ordered this book because I saw the author on "The View." Boy, did I get taken. This book is written without insight or skill. It fails to build, and is more akin to an article for a lower end women's magazine than an entire book She had an awful mother, and a generally dysfunctional family, so........? Nothing. Completely boring and a real waste of time.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2008
No insight. A the ending - the "I'm the good person I am today because my mother was awful to me, and I wanted to be better than her" is a total cop out. How about that you might be a good person today ~in spite of~ the hate and violence your mother tortured you with as a child? Think about what a wonderful person you'd be like if you had a Good childhood? A supportive parent, a happy household, an understanding family. It's like justifying being spanked as a child as a good thing because hey, you turned out okay, so it must not have been so bad.

There was no real exploration into the reason why her mother was so angry and hateful toward this one daughter and not the other two, why the three didn't get along or speak much. Why?

This is a story suitable for a blog, someone posting about what it was like growing up. Not worthy of print though. Find it at the library. You will read it in one afternoon - it is not a weighty book at all and certainly not one that requires much effort on your part as the author didn't seem to work that hard. So many times I asked "but why?" and wanted to know more, things were hinted at but never explored further and my questions not answered. Could have been a good read but it's really just a quick story of growing up with an angry mother.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2011
Oh my gosh, wouldn't I love to hear her Mother's side of this story (or the sisters'). If Alyse Myers is such a completely unsympathic character as described by herself, one can only imagine how much worse she really was. I'm sure her Mother was a terrible parent, but I found absolutely nothing to make me like (or care about) the daughter either. She admittedly hated her own sisters. She doesn't even call them my name, only middle sister and little sister. Perhaps she learned her behavior from her mother, but for me it was toss up as to who was more self-centered and difficult. Had I been given pages from this book without knowing anything about it or that it even was a published book, I would have said that it was written by an eleven year old, not an adult. The writing is extremely elementary. The only good thing about it is that, with very few words on a page, it was a fast read and, therefore, I didn't waste a significant amount of time on it. This may sound harsh, but when I buy (based on a bunch or puzzlingly good reviews) a book that turns out to be this horrible, it really, really annoys me. Honestly, consider this review before you get hoodwinked into wasting time or money on this. It's a boring, childish, self-centered "memoir" of a mother and daughter yelling at and hating each other for 250 pages. Ugh!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2009
Excellent reading. I thought I was in this one all by myself. I appreciate the fact that someone had the courage to come forward and write about this painful subject. I am over sixty years of age and my mom is still alive and 86 years old. We have not solved any of our differences, as we are estranged as I speak. I did not know how to "handle' this situation. I JUST ABRUPTLY STOPPED SEEING MY MOTHER. I feel that if you do not miss something or someone, there obviously wasn't a valid reason for the relationship in the first place.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This memoir was mainly about Alyse Myers' rocky relationship with her mother. The eldest of three girls, Alyse adored her father, but hated her mother. Alyse was her father's favorite, but her mother's jealousy and anger at the attention he paid to Alyse was something that Alyse would carry with her for the rest of her life.

It begins with her mother's funeral when she remembers a secured wooden box that her mother kept in her bedroom closet. This is the only item in her mother's apartment that she wants, but she is afraid what it contains and waits to open it 12 years later with her 15 year old daughter present.

Most of the book is a flashback to the to her years growing up in the 1960's in a poor section of Queens, New York, when her father was frequently away on business and her mother stayed at home with the children.

I was caught up in this book from the very the beginning and couldn't put it down. The simple prose enlightens us that no family relationship is perfect and that everyone has their ups and downs. Alyse's fight to find out who she is and to win her mother's love is a true mark of perseverance and forgiveness. I highly recommend this book.
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