From Publishers Weekly
Tannen (You Just Don't Understand
; That's Not What I Meant
; etc.) continues to study human interaction through conversation, this time attempting to peel back the layers of meaning that make up conversations between mothers and their teenage and older daughters. While Tannen intends to clarify the ways in which mothers and daughters relate to each other verbally (through direct conversation; indirect messages, or "metamessages"; compliments or insults disguised as judgment; etc.), her own message is muddled by an overabundance of anecdotes and examples and too much stating the obvious. In chapters such as "My Mother, My Hair: Caring and Criticizing" and "Best Friends, Worst Enemies: A Walk on the Dark Side," Tannen seeks to examine every angle of various discussions and makes obvious comments, like "Where the daughter sees criticism, the mother sees caring.... Most of the time, both are right." She then expands on her comment with lengthy and often unnecessary explanations. While Tannen is astute in her observation that "Our relationships with our mothers go on way beyond their lifetimes, no matter what age we are when we lose them," she fails to clear up the mysteries between mothers and daughters.
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Talk is essential to women's relationships, best-selling (You Just Don't Understand
, 1990) linguistics professor Tannen maintains. This book responding to readers' feedback about the mother-daughter chapter in her I Only Say This Because I Love You
(2001) argues that satisfying conversations between mothers and grown daughters can be the ultimate healing agents, a kind of Holy Grail for women. Or not. "Words are like touch. They can caress or they can scratch." The illuminating extracts from mother-daughter colloquies that she cites bring to life both the soothing ointment and the ripped-open scars possible in interchanges on issues indicated by the chapter titles "Involvement or Invasion," "Great Expectations," "Incompatible Style Differences," and "Difference Equals Distance," as well as age-old sources of conflict for this extraordinarily intense kind of relationship. Whitney ScottCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved