A rich and luminous novel about three generations of women in one family: the love they share, the dreams they refuse to surrender, and the secrets they hold
Samantha is lost in the joys of new motherhood—the softness of her eight-month-old daughter's skin, the lovely weight of her child in her arms—but in trading her artistic dreams to care for her child, Sam worries she's lost something of herself. And she is still mourning another loss: her mother, Iris, died just one year ago.
When a box of Iris's belongings arrives on Sam's doorstep, she discovers links to pieces of her family history but is puzzled by much of the information the box contains. She learns that her grandmother Violet left New York City as an eleven-year-old girl, traveling by herself to the Midwest in search of a better life. But what was Violet's real reason for leaving? And how could she have made that trip alone at such a tender age?
In confronting secrets from her family's past, Sam comes to terms with deep secrets from her own. Moving back and forth in time between the stories of Sam, Violet, and Iris, Mothers and Daughters is the spellbinding tale of three remarkable women connected across a century by the complex wonder of motherhood.
This book was later published under the title Mercy Train.
Meadows (Calling Out) lightly explores the interplay between mothers and daughters in this thin intergenerational drama. Sam, a 30-something new mom, tries to meet the needs of her daughter and maintain her own identity while dealing with the recent death of her mother, Iris. We meet Iris just before her death as she invites Sam home to help her prepare for her demise. Then there's Violet, Iris's mother, who at the age of 11 roamed the streets of New York, until her poverty-stricken mother put her on an orphan train to the Midwest. Violet's story is the best told, with details of her New York life and her experiences on the orphan train easily stealing the show from the more staid and familiar contemporary plot. Generational differences in opportunities, attitudes, and expectations are patly played out, but there's little attention paid to anything deeper than the surface ways the women affect each others' lives. Meadows writes decent prose, but the story doesn't dig deep enough.