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Book: Not Becoming My Mother (Ruth Reichl)

June 15, 2010

I love Ruth Reichl’s books and this little one is no exception. You can read it in an afternoon, but I think you’ll think about it for much longer.

If you’ve read any of her other books, you know that Reichl’s mother is a Character. She is eccentric, a dangerous cook, an unhappy woman (or so we think), a force compelling Reichl away from her manic mother and into the foodie universe she came to swim in so happily. And it’s true: Ruth’s mother is for most of her life a deeply unhappy woman. Why? Well, mostly because she did what she was expected to do: give up her own dreams, marry, have a family, not work. It was only until much, much later in her life that she was able to do as she pleased, and became finally extremely happy.


Reichl says she she is happy every day to not be her mother, and to not be ANY of the mother’s of that generation. The relentless boredom and uselessness, the sexism and lack of opportunity, created a generation of deeply unhappy and unfulfilled women. With the washing machine, dishwasher, vacuum and instant foods, no longer did women need to work at home. And yet, they were discouraged from working outside the home. Thus, mind-numbing boredom for legions of smart women.


This is a short book, and ultimately a thoughtful and inspiring one. I’ve always believed (and I can only think that this came from my own mother in some way) that it is SO important for women to do what they want, to take care of themselves, and to be as smart as they can be. I also believe, and I KNOW this came from my mother, that you should be as kind as you can possibly be, take care of others when they need someone, treat everyone with respect regardless of how you might feel inside, and always always be useful and practical. All very good things, in my opinion. I’m just now learning that you also really need to take care of yourself first and foremost, so that this deep well of giving is not depleted. This is probably the most important lesson.

While of course I don’t want to become my mother, because I am very happy to be my very own self, while Reichl’s mother was, admittedly, a long list of things you don’t want to become; I did think on all the things that my mother taught me for which I’m so grateful. In addition to the things already listed, she taught me any number of very useful skills (how to cook, how to sew, how to make all kinds of things), how to be a good person in the world, how to keep the waters smooth while also having your own opinion, and how to bargain-shop! That last one is very helpful. 🙂

A fun book for a quiet afternoon.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2010 8:48 am

    i read this one early this year and liked it as well. i thought it was nice how ruth had a pretty decent relationship with her mother even though she wasnt the easiest person to be around.

  2. June 16, 2010 5:04 pm

    Mama LOVES you :).

  3. June 17, 2010 5:46 pm

    I have no idea what happened to my Reichl book but I miss it! I really would not mind reading ALL of her books – and KEEP the ones with recipes. This is a LOVELY post – it would make a fabulous Women Unbound Challenge post – are you participating in it? ( I supposed I *should* know that but my braincells aren’t concerned with keeping track, sorry)

  4. June 18, 2010 10:48 am

    Care: I agree, I wouldn’t mind having her books with all the recipes! Thanks for the nice words — I’m not doing that Challenge, I haven’t done any official challenges this year. I’ve just been too unfocused. 🙂

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