The inter-generational stories of Violet, her daughter Iris, and her granddaughter Sam reach from the early 1900’s to the present, from the alleys of New York City to the fields and meadows of Wisconsin. A novel about how we know our mothers through our daughters, Meadows story sweeps from the brutal gang streets of poverty strewn New York City’s Fourth Ward and Madame Tang’s opium den to Sam and her new daughter, Ella. Ella’s birth is bittersweet, for Sam has just recently assisted her cancer ridden mother, Iris, in dying.
Violet’s mother, Lilibeth, is a faded beauty and a constant visitor to Madame Tangs. She cannot cope with her haphazard life in NYC at the turn of the century. Violet grows up on the violent streets, bonding with another street child, Nino. It is Violet’s job to take care of her mother, for Lilibeth has no concept of how to take care of either of them. She places Violet in the Home for Destitute Children, but Violet escapes to run the streets again and to return to her mother, her only family. Finally, when Violet is 11, Lilibeth puts her on the Orphan Train, run by the Childrens Aid Society. The children head out west by train, scared, confused and only hoping that some family, someone, will take them in. On the last stop, in Wisconsin, Violet is finally chosen by kind Miss Moody to serve as a baker in apprentice in a womens hospital. She marries a quiet farmer. Violet never complains, and when her daughter Iris is born, she marvels that she is able to love her.
Iris has moved through an unfulfilled life and divorced, has moved to Sanibel Island, Florida. The mother of Sam and Theo, Iris leaves her entire world behind; the antique furniture, the household lifestyle, the unhappy marriage and comes to Sanibel wanting only solitude and peace. She discovers she has Stage Four cancer of the breast, and refuses to take chemotherapy for she wants the end of her life to be hers. She entreats Sam to assist her at the end, to give her enough morphine pills to die. Sam, pregnant and confused, tries hard to know her mother, Iris. This is the end of her life, and Sam knows nothing about her mother and grandmother, Violet. But Iris refuses to indulge Sam and Sam struggles as she knows she must help her mother, not matter what.
Sam, herself in the midst of emotional chaos, wonders about her marriage and her art. She is a talented potter, and when she has Ella, she cannot bear to be away from her little daughter, and she does not know if she must give up the act of creating to be the kind of mother she wants to be. Then, Sam receives a package from Iris’ ex-husband, her father, with mementos from Iris. As she opens the box, she begins to wonder about her secretive grandmother, and the letters, photos and mementos in the box. And she makes the decision to search out the truths of the women of the family.
Like “The Joy Luck Club”, Violet and Iris want only something better for their children, and in Sam they finally obtain their wish. A story of generations and daughters who cannot know their mothers, until they have their own daughters, this sweeping generational story brings Sam – and us – home.
Quite a good novel, with every woman’s desire to know their mothers at the heart of Meadow’s characters.
Mothers and Daughters is available at Amazon.com and other booksellers.
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own