“A gorgeous memoir about mothers, daughters, and the tenacity of the love that grows between what is said and what is left unspoken.”—Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk
If our family stories shape us, what happens when we learn those stories were never true? Who do we become when we shed our illusions about the past?
Maya Shanbhag Lang grew up idolizing her brilliant mother, an accomplished physician who immigrated to the United States from India and completed her residency all while raising her children and keeping a traditional Indian home. Maya’s mother had always been a source of support—until Maya became a mother herself. Then the parent who had once been so capable and attentive became suddenly and inexplicably unavailable. Struggling to understand this abrupt change while raising her own young child, Maya searches for answers and soon learns that her mother is living with Alzheimer’s.
Unable to remember or keep track of the stories she once told her daughter—stories about her life in India, why she immigrated, and her experience of motherhood—Maya’s mother divulges secrets about her past that force Maya to reexamine their relationship. It becomes clear that Maya never really knew her mother, despite their close bond. Absorbing, moving, and raw, What We Carry is a memoir about mothers and daughters, lies and truths, receiving and giving care, and how we cannot grow up until we fully understand the people who raised us. It is a beautiful examination of the weight we shoulder as women and an exploration of how to finally set our burdens down.
Praise for What We Carry
"Part self-discovery, part family history. . . [Lang's] analysis of the shifting roles of mothers and daughters, particularly through the lens of immigration, help[s] to challenge her family’s mythology. . . . Readers interested in examining their own family stories . . . will connect deeply with Lang’s beautiful memoir."—Library Journal
“A stirring memoir exploring the fraught relationships between mothers and daughters . . . astutely written and intense . . . [What We Carry] will strike a chord with readers.”—Publishers Weekly
“Lang is an immediately affable and honest narrator who offers an intriguing blend of revelatory personal history and touching insight.”—BookPage
Lang (The Sixteenth of June) delivers a stirring memoir exploring the fraught relationships between mothers and daughters. Born to Indian immigrants, Lang grew up in New York City in the 1980s and '90s with a stern physician mother and a father who accused her of exaggerating injuries for attention. After her parents divorced, Lang had little contact with her father and lived with her sometimes-distant, fiercely independent mother. After the author's daughter Zoe was born, Lang suffered from a crippling postpartum depression; she asked her mother for help, but her mother refused: "My body cannot handle travel anymore.... If I tried to come to you right now I would die on the plane. And would that make you feel any better? No." Years later, when Lang's daughter was in grade school, her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and it was Lang who stepped in to take care of the mother who had refused to care for her. Lang details the difficulties of parental caregiving making sure her mother eats, dealing with her intense mood swings and memory loss and examines her own complex emotions as her mother undergoes treatment ("When she was thorny and awful, I was sympathetic. Now that she's thriving, I feel hostile"). Lang's astutely written and intense memoir will strike a chord with readers dealing with a parent's dementia.