Altman, Elissa. “Motheland A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing” Ballantine , 2019.
Mother and Daughter
Elissa Altman survived a traumatic childhood in New York in the 1970s and a young adult she lived in the shadow of Rita, her flamboyant mother, a makeup-addicted former television singer. Somehow, she has managed to build a very different life, now living in Connecticut with her wife of nearly twenty years. It was not easy and took a lot of “time, therapy, and wine”. She feels that she is finally in a safe and healthy place. She keeps her far enough away so that Elissa can have a stable, independent world and career— she is a writer and editor. But then Rita, a “flaneur” who flits around Manhattan fell and becomes completely dependent upon Elissa making her confront their differences. Rita yearns for beauty and glamour; she sees the world through her days in the spotlight. Her money has gone to her preserving her youth. Now, forced to sustain their fragile mother-daughter bond, Elissa must deal with their shared lives and the challenges of caregiving for someone who refuses help, is a narcissist “and the mutual, frenetic obsession that has defined their relationship.”
To read this is to be touched by it. We see a great deal about maternal love, moral obligation, the choices women make about motherhood, and the possibility of healing. Altman writes with tenderness and irreverence about herself, her mother and unforgettable characters as she explores leaving the past behind and then having it return. Her book shows the power of family and love,
The story is an intimate and fascinating look at complex mother-daughter attachments. The relationship is codependent. We read of role reversals in parent-child relationships that are entertaining and painful.