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Is there anything better than bonding with a loved one over a book? Discussing what you liked and disliked, examining themes, seeing how it relates to your own relationships. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we’ve rounded up the best books for mothers and daughters to read together.
The Vibrant Years by Sonali Dev
Sixty-five year old Bindu Desai is shocked yet horrified when she inherits a million dollars. Desperate to keep mistakes from her past hidden, she unexpectedly spends the money on a condo, but not just anywhere—in a posh retirement community in Florida. The decision blindsides her roommate who is also her former daughter-in-law. For Aly, who is divorced from Bindu’s son, navigating a new life may be the push she needs to fight for her place at the news station where she works. Then there’s Aly’s daughter, Cullie, who has never been on a real date. But her investors are pressuring her to deliver something new, and they want the dating app that she pitched half-heartedly. When Cullie’s mother and grandmother are enlisted to help in the research, a shared journey of self-discovery highlights the beauty in each generation as they strive to live their best lives.
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
Sisters Althea, Viola and Lillian did not always have the perfect life. The eldest, Althea, took it upon herself to raise her sisters and became the substitute matriarch, a force to be reckoned with. However, everything falls apart when she and her husband are arrested, something that shocks the entire family and community as a whole. Viola and Lillian must work together to raise Althea’s teenage daughters while picking up the broken pieces of their family.
Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera
Three women in South Carolina from completely different backgrounds find that their lives are intertwined. Gertrude is struggling to make ends meet and soon finds that she must make a decision between saving her four daughters or dying at the hands of her abusive husband. On the Cole plantation, Annie is the matriarch and must face the harsh secrets of her broken family’s past. Finally, Retta, a first-generation freed slave, still works for the Coles, who once owned her family. The three women work together in a story about motherhood, family, and facing secrets to fight the injustices that fill their town.
What Happened to You? by Oprah Winfrey & Bruce D. Perry
Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry, an acclaimed brain and trauma expert, sit down to discuss the intricate behavioral patterns that we all struggle to understand. By using Winfrey’s past and experiences, they shift the question from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” in order to overcome and understand the long-lasting effects of our past.
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
At Melody’s coming of age ceremony, she proudly wears a custom-made dress that was specifically fitted for her. However, she was not the only one who was fitted for this certain dress; sixteen years prior, her mother was fitted for the same dress for a ceremony that never happened. In a story that is told in different points of time with different members of the family, Red at the Bone explores self-discovery, family history, racism and sexual identity.
Send for Me by Lauren Fox
During the early years in Germany before World War II, Annelise works in her family’s bakery, looking forward to a long life of amazing possibilities. Soon after she marries and has a daughter, anti-Semitism begins to rise, and their lives become more dangerous. Her family is given the opportunity to leave Germany but must make the difficult decision of leaving her parents behind. Two generations later in Wisconsin, her granddaughter, Clare, finds Annelise’s letters and dives deep into her family’s past, as well as her own future.
That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam
After giving birth to her son, Rebecca Stone finds herself overwhelmed with the demands of motherhood as well as reaching her personal goals. She finds help in Priscilla, a nurse who helped her, and asks her to nanny her son. As she gets closer to Priscilla, Rebecca starts to acknowledge the privilege she has as a white woman. However, when Priscilla dies from childbirth, Rebecca adopts her son and finds that she is unprepared in navigating the life of a white woman with a black son.
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
As Lucy Barton spends time recovering from an operation, her estranged mother comes to visit her hospital room after years of silence. During the visit, mother and daughter look back at their relationship and history, from Lucy’s dysfunctional childhood in Illinois to her escape to New York City to become a writer. My Name Is Lucy Barton dives into Lucy’s life decisions to explore poverty, abuse, the possibility of repairing relationships, and the complexity of family.
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Told in a series of essays, Shauna Niequist recounts the life changing decision she made in order to truly discover herself and live freely. This book explores the need to transition from a busy, frantic life to a life of discovery and prayer in order to better oneself. She explores the importance of personal improvement, acceptance, grace and simplicity.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Set in 1949, the story follows four Chinese immigrant mothers and their daughters, and they explore the deep connection between a mother and daughter, the intricate histories of families, and the sharing of secrets kept between them. Calling themselves the Joy Luck Club, the four mothers meet every week to play mahjong and share their stories of what they left behind in China. Their daughters, having adapted to their modern American lives, tend to ignore their mothers’ advice, until crises arrive, and they realize that they have more in common with their mothers than they think.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Bee’s family promised her that if she got straight As, she could get anything she wanted. When her report comes in with all As, Bee claims a trip to Antarctica as a reward. Her mother, Bernadette, rarely leaves home and has been anti-social since the family moved to Seattle. After throwing herself into research for the trip and after things go disastrously wrong, Bernadette disappears. Bee is determined to find her missing mother and dives into the past she kept secret.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
After her mother’s death, Cheryl’s family falls apart and her marriage quickly follows in suit. Four years after seeming to lose everything, she decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State by herself with no prior experience. Follow Cheryl on her long journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and healing.
Dear Black Girl: Letters From Your Sisters on Stepping into Your Power by Tamara Winfrey Harris
Told through a series of personal letters, Dear Black Girl aims to nurture healthy womanhood and sisterhood through letters written by Black women for young Black girls from the ages thirteen to twenty-one. The letters come from Harris’ call for advice as a part of her Letters to Black Girls project and explores the importance of self-discovery, self-love, identity and sexuality.
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
After re-watching Gilmore Girls, be sure to pick up Lauren Graham’s memoir, filled with personal essays about Graham’s experience as an actress in Hollywood. She explores her life experiences, becoming an actress, and the experience of working in Hollywood as a single woman. Be prepared for a hilarious look back at Graham’s life as well as her time on the set of Gilmore Girls.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Sisters Vianne and Isabelle live in France during World War II and are both fighting their own battles. Vianne’s husband leaves to fight, leaving behind Vianne and her young daughter as a German captain requisitions their home. While the captain threatens their safety, Vianne must make dangerous decisions in order to keep her daughter safe. Meanwhile, after Isabelle is betrayed by her lover, Gaëtan, she decides to join the Resistance. Both sisters must fight to keep themselves and their family safe during the increased danger of living in German-occupied France.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Twin sisters Desiree and Stella run away from their small Black community when they are sixteen to find their own destinies. However, as the years pass, Desiree comes back home with her daughter while Stella lives her life passing as a white woman with her white husband. Their lives become intertwined again as their daughters face their own share of decisions, race and familial expectations.
Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan
Elisabeth has moved from New York City to a smaller town with her husband and newborn son. She finds that she is finding difficulty in adjusting to a new life of balancing her career as a journalist and caring for her son. She soon hires Sam, a senior at the local women’s college, to babysit. The women are in different stages of their lives with completely different priorities, yet find friendship within each other. However, their newfound relationship is threatened when problems arise.
Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
Jayne Baek doesn’t have a seemingly flawless life as her sister, June, does. She is struggling in fashion school, battling an eating disorder, and is stuck with a deadbeat boyfriend. June leads a successful life as she works at her finance job and owns an extravagant apartment. However, her life takes a turn for the worst when she is diagnosed with uterine cancer and her life isn’t as perfect as it seems. Jaye and June decide to commit insurance fraud by switching places in order to save each other in this story about sisterhood, mental health and Korean American identity.
The Sound Between Notes by Barbara Linn Probst
Susannah was a gifted pianist until she had her son sixteen years ago. She put her music on hold in order to put her child first as a way to guarantee that her son would not go through what she did as an adopted child. When Susannah is given a second chance at becoming an elite pianist, she is determined to get back in the spotlight. However, when she learns that she has a progressive hereditary disease that impacts her playing fingers, Susannah is sent back into her memories in order to find her place in the world.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Michelle Zauner, lead singer in Japanese Breakfast, recounts her life story in her memoir, Crying in H Mart, from her experiences in her grandmother’s apartment in Seoul, bonding with her mother over food, and facing the pain of her mother’s terminal pancreatic cancer diagnosis when she was twenty-five. Zauner shares her experiences of growing up as a Korean American, finding her true identity, and navigating the rest of her adult life.
All Adults Here by Emma Straub
After Astrid witnesses a horrific bus accident, she looks back on her past and realizes that she probably wasn’t the best parent for her three children. She decides to make things better for her children—but her now-grown children are facing personal consequences of their own. This story explores the importance of family, growing old and parental responsibility.
A Special Place for Women by Laura Hankin
An elite club for women becomes the focal point for Jillian Beckley’s next undercover story. She is determined to find out what goes on within the mysterious social club, and if the group is as powerful in New York City as rumors say. As Jillian is drawn deeper into their world, however, she discovers that the group is not only powerful, but dangerous as well.
At Least You Have Your Health by Madi Sinha
After being forced to leave her job at the city hospital, Dr. Maya Rao agrees to work for Amelia DeGilles, the owner of a women’s health clinic that provides house calls for wealthy women. Maya admires Amelia and comes to idolize her. When the health of Amelia’s daughter suddenly declines due to a mysterious illness, Maya must act quickly before it’s too late. But saving Amelia’s daughter may risk exposing Maya’s deepest secret.
The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina
When Yui lost her mother and daughter in the 2011 tsunami, her heart was broken and world upended. She struggles to overcome her grief and the pain of their loss. One day, she learns of a phone booth in one man’s garden that purportedly allows the user to talk to deceased loved ones. When she makes her pilgrimage to the phone booth, however, she is unable to gather the courage to try to speak to her lost loved ones. Instead, in the garden, she meets a bereaved husband and his daughter who refuses to speak and together they begin the journey toward healing.
Secret Love Letters of Olivia Moretti by Jennifer Probst
When their mother dies, sisters Priscilla, Devon, and Bailey discover she kept a trunk of secret love letters, all authored by the same anonymous man. In addition to letters, there is a deed to a house on the Amalfi Coast. Suddenly unsure that they ever really knew their mom, the sisters embark on a journey through Italy in search of the mysterious man and their mother’s newly discovered home.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Alix Chamberlain hired 25-year-old Emira to care for her two-year-old child Briar. But when Emira is at the grocery story with Briar one night, a security guard stops her, sure that Emira, a Black woman, has kidnapped a white child. The security guard’s confrontation of Emira is caught on video, which goes viral. Emira is angry and embarrassed. Alix wants to make things right. When someone from Alix’s past makes a sudden reappearance, their situation is made all the more complicated.
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
In this unforgettable memoir, Nicole Chung shares the very personal and moving story of her search for her birth family. Raised by a white family and told from a young age that she was born premature and placed for adoption by Korean parents that were unable to care for her, she begins to question if the simple story of her adoption is the whole truth. She begins a search for her birth parents, but also a journey of self-discovery.
In Defense of Witches by Mona Chollet
The persecution of witches is another example in a long tradition that aims to suppress women who dare to challenge convention. In her book In Defense of Witches, Mona Chollet investigates the three types of women that were accused of witchcraft throughout history, and offers evidence to show that these types of women continue to be harassed and oppressed today.
Finding Me by Viola Davis
With a bold promise to help readers rediscover who they truly are beneath social labels, Finding Me is a life-changing memoir written by Viola Davis that resonates with honesty. Davis explores what makes a life worth living and how to find your purpose.
It All Comes Down To This by Therese Anne Fowler
Beck, Claire, and Sophie’s mother, Marti, is dying. Like their mother, each sister carries her share of secrets. Beck, the oldest, has a failing marriage and she secretly hopes to take ownership of the family cottage after their mother dies, thinking a move may be just the thing she needs to rekindle her marriage. Claire, the middle daughter and a doctor, is recently divorced and is secretly in love with a man she can’t be with. Meanwhile the youngest, Sophie, is secretly in a financial spiral. Everything is about to reach its breaking point when a mysterious man makes a sudden appearance, changing everything.
The Marriage Box by Corie Adjmi
When sixteen-year-old Casey Cohen starts to hang out with the wrong crowd, her worried parents make the decision to move the family back to the Orthodox Syrian Jewish Community they came from in Brooklyn. Within the community, Casey is out of her element and she views the traditional culture as oppressive. She also learns about the Marriage Box, a section of the community pool deck where women put themselves on display for potential husbands. When Casey meets Michael, however, she is suddenly intrigued by her new community and she marries Michael at eighteen. But when Michael insists that Casey have a baby instead of going to college, Casey must find a way to be a part of community without sacrificing her own desires.
The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford
Dorothy is a poet whose mental health struggles inform her art. When her five-year-old daughter begins showing signs of the same symptoms Dorothy has suffered through her whole life, she is determined to find a way to save her daughter from the same pain. Through experimental treatment, Dorothy finds a way to communicate with past generations of women in her family in an effort to cure herself and her daughter from the inherited trauma that haunts them.
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