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THE BAD DAUGHTER: Betrayal and Confession Hardcover – January 4, 1998
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From Library Journal
When her mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, 22-year-old Hilden refused to do what her aunt Betty and society expected her to do?quit law school and care for her now-incapacitated parent. Indeed, before her mother's death, Hilden visited her only once in the nursing home. Although the author expects readers to condemn her actions, she asks, "Would other people really have chosen to care for a mother who wasn't loving, who was often angry, who was often simply gone?" Hilden's brief memoir recalls her unhappy childhood with an alcoholic mother and her attempt to escape and create a new life. Ironically, Hilden, now 29, has a 50-50 chance of carrying the gene for early-onset Alzheimer's. While she raises some powerful issues (selfishness vs. self-preservation), her book is weakened by pretentious, "literary" prose and an unnecessarily long section explicitly detailing her sexual affairs. For collections where dysfunctional family memoirs are popular.?Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Hilden's exquisitely written book is part confessional, part self-examination, part memoir, and totally riveting. It tells the nearly taboo story of an only child who refuses to care for an alienated, ailing mother. Instead, miles away, virtually in another world, the daughter continually re-creates herself, trying to put the past and especially her mother behind. So doing, she knowingly opts to be "bad" --that is, selfish at best, "unnatural" at worst. Hilden's diamond-cut prose pinpoints the exact moments of her preadolescent distancing from her mother and limns with astonishing precision the nuances of displeasure growing into distaste and, finally, disgust as her mother's condition deteriorates from alcohol abuse exacerbated by early-onset Alzheimer's. Whether depicting her mother's increasingly frequent outbursts of irrational rage (from which Hilden fled to Harvard at the earliest possible moment) or her own inability to remain faithful to any man and build intimacy, Hilden's dispassionate style chills and fascinates, never more so than when she learns she may possess DNA predisposing her to Alzheimer's, too. This short book leaves the usual parameters of the narrative of caring for a sick mother far behind and packs an enormous wallop, especially for those for whom alienation from their mothers has become a way of life. Whitney Scott
Top customer reviews
Not all lives follow this reassuring arc. I look at my own life, and that of my friends. It's back and forth, very little is neatly tied up. I dig down and find regrets, mistakes, betrayals. So when Julie Hilden writes (and Algonquin publishes) a story with no redemption--just the hard truth of how a mother abandoned her daughter, and the daughter abandons her mother--I sit up as if bitten. Here is a history that has not been adjusted to fit the usual pattern.
As Tilden puts it, "This is a taboo story, I know, for it's the stories of reconciliation that are told over and over--the birth mother reunited with her child given up for adoption, the long-lost found, the feud ended--and not the stories of leaving. I always think that if people really knew me--I mean knew me at the deepest level--they wouldn't like me."
That's the risk she's taken. Some like her (and her book), and some don't. For me, all I want is the truth, and from the first chapter to the last, The Bad Daughter lays it out. A powerful and completely absorbing book.
Born to a mother and father who fail her in varying ways, she recedes into a cerebral world of books, and a quest for worldly accomplishment.Inviting us into her inner world, filled with angst and self-loathing, she delves into profound questions of life, death and the randomness of Alzheimers disease. Hilden confronts the very real possibility that she herself, may eventually have to bear the same disease that has taken her mother.
This is a haunting story that will stay with you, long after you've read the last page, closed the book.
This is a brutally honest and riveting personal account. There is no happy ending and no clues are offered about the daughter's quest for healing. However, the book itself represents a form of personal therapy and hope for the future. To better understand the perspective of family members who choose not to become involved in the care of those with AD, this unsettling book is a good reminder about hidden personal agenda and the terrible consequences of deceit.