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Publisher's Summary

In this deeply etched and haunting memoir, Vivian Gornick tells the story of her lifelong battle with her mother for independence. Gornick's groundbreaking book confronts what Edna O'Brien has called "the principal crux of female despair": the unacknowledged Oedipal nature of the mother-daughter bond.

Born and raised in the Bronx, the daughter of "urban peasants," Gornick grows up in a household dominated by her intelligent but uneducated mother's romantic depression over the early death of her husband. Next door lives Nettie, an attractive widow whose calculating sensuality appeals greatly to Vivian. These women with their opposing models of femininity continue, well into adulthood, to affect Gornick's struggle to find herself in love and in work.

As Gornick walks with her aged mother through the streets of New York, arguing and remembering the past, each wins the listener's admiration: the caustic and clear-thinking daughter, for her courage and tenacity in really talking to her mother about the most basic issues of their lives, and the still powerful and intuitively wise old woman, who again and again proves herself her daughter's mother.

©1987 Vivian Gornick (P)2022 Tantor

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  • EEL
  • 06-29-22

Not for those with misophonia

Gornick is a great writer but this recording was made very recently and her voice shows very clearly the depredations of age. While many will relish the authenticity of a self-reading (although she reads Jonathan Lethem's introduction, too, which is quite odd as it's an encomium of her), and it means at least that the reading is intelligent and all correctly pronounced, someone who struggles with misophonia (disgust at, among other things, incidental mouth noises) will find it difficult to listen to. Gornick doesn't breathe sufficiently to manage the length of her own sentences so there’s a lot of noisy swallowing, gasping, and rasping. The vocal tone in general sounds like she’s got a very bad bout of laryngitis. It's a shame she didn't record this when it came out over 30 years ago.