In her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Motherless Daughters, Hope Edelman explored the profound and lasting effects of mother loss, as well as her own search for healing. Now, in her compelling new work, Edelman explores another complex, life-changing relationship, the intricate bond between generations.
Drawing from her own experience and the recollections of over seventy other granddaughters, Edelman explores the three-generation triangle from which women develop their female identities: the grandmother-mother-daughter relationship. With eloquent personal testimony, she demonstrates the vital roles grandmothers have played in their granddaughters' lives, as a source of unconditional love, family values and traditions, and backup parent, the ultimate safety net.
Here are grandmothers in all their glory: The "Benevolent Manipulator", whose love for her family is matched only by her desire for control; The "Gentle Giant", awesome, respected, who possesses a quiet, behind-the-scenes power; The "Autocrat", who rules her extended family like a despot; The "Kinkeeper", the family hub, who offers a sense of cohesion to the extended clan.
With insight and compassion, Edelman probes this unique and emotionally-charged relationship in a book that is a true celebration of an extraordinary bond--and a must read for every woman.
In Motherless Daughters, her bestselling study of the psychological impact of a daughter's loss of her mother, Edelman explored the terrain of grief and recovery. In this work, she expands her focus to include grandmothers and the love/hate relationships that can form between the three generations, drawing on her own interviews with 70 granddaughters, and her survey of 186 more, as well as the work of psychologists and sociologists who study intergenerational dynamics. The result is slightly choppy, as the narrative jumps from scientific findings about bonding, self-esteem and matriarchal power in American society to memoir sequences in which Edelman's grandmother and mother are either enraged at each other or giggling like schoolgirls. Edelman is at her best illuminating the complexity of girls' and women's feelings toward their mothers and grandmothers. She identifies four major types of matriarchs (for example, "The Gentle Giant," "The Autocrat," or "Kinkeeper") and shows that many are combinations of all these roles. Her narrative of how her feelings toward her grandmother evolved from unconditional devotion to wary reticence reveals the way that family loyalties can shift for girls and adolescents, and may reassure those who experience guilt over severed or frayed family connections. Edelman's good intentions and insights make this a worthwhile read for any woman who has ever viewed her family dynamic as both minefield and saving grace.