Monday, February 15, 2010

Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl


Ruth Reichl’s first memoir, Comfort Me With Apples, introduced us to Mim, her mother. Clearly suffering from some form of mental illness, Mim is a terrifying figure, at once funny and dangerous, who wreaks all kinds of havoc on Ruth’s life. Now Mim is back in Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way, a short memoir by Reichl devoted entirely to Mim.

Apparently Mim took to heart the Catherine Aird maxim “If you can’t be a good example you’ll have to serve as a horrible warning.” Her disappointments (career, looks, marriage) are legion and she has left for Ruth, after her death, a box of letters and mementos that help Ruth process all of them. Ruth is grateful to Mim for giving her permission and incentive to have a career, and more importantly, to choose her own road through life rather than living the life dictated by her parents, as Mim had to do. Reichl writes movingly both of Mim’s troubles and of her own successes.

What I can’t figure out is why this is a book. It’s very short, only 112 pages of largish type on small pages; it’s kind of a miniature book, a guest room book, or maybe a gift book? But who would buy this for their mother? “Here mom, you were as nutty as Mim, so thanks a lot.” It would have made a perfectly good article in the Atlantic or the New Yorker where you could read it for $5.00 and get lots of other good articles at the same time. I liked it, but I’m glad I didn’t pay the publisher’s list price of $19.95 (or $25.00 in Canada!).

(Book 8, 2010)

2 comments:

Thomas at My Porch said...

I loved her previous 3 books and really like the way she writes so this one goes on my wish list despite its brevity.

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

I loved the first book; the second less so. But when you are a name with a track record, I think it's a given that they will publish whatever you do — regardless of size. Reichl strikes me as someone who lands on her feet, so I expect she will do so again. This book is probably a step in that direction. But I sure miss her wonderful touch with Gourmet. Looked at all the food mags at the bookstore the other day and walked away empty handed. Nothing out there is a replacement for Gourmet.

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