Ruth Reichl’s autobiographical memoir, Not Becoming My Mother is another expert offering by the renowned and acclaimed food author, editor in chief and executive producer. It is a simple read written in a lovely style. Despite its simplicity, however, this book carries at its heart insights into the most intrinsic relationship that exists: Mother and child.
This book is Reichl’s posthumous memorialisation of her Mother’s life, told with reference to many letters and stories belonging to Reichl’s Mother. The motif of “Mim’s Tales” (the author’s pet name for her Mother, Miriam’s stories) gives a light-hearted and familiar recount of the tumultuous but loving relationship between Mother and Daughter.
This enduring and powerful relationship is captured in passages describing Reichl’s Mother’s handwritten letters, which were “so vivid… I could almost hear her voice”. Reichl’s characterisation of her Mother is complex and multi-toned, where she is often described as “my dynamic Mother”. Most compellingly, though, is Reichl’s own journey of empathy and understanding for her Mother, during which she sees her Mother in greater terms than the “comic character of the Mim’s tales”. It is a pleasure to witness Reichl’s process of coming to terms with who her Mother really was.
Notwithstanding Reichl’s humorous depictions of her Mother’s grim cooking abilities captured in comical scenes such as Reichl’s brother’s engagement party where several guests ended up in the hospital with food poisoning, the author’s love for her Mother pulses intensely through the lifeblood of this book.
The journey reaches its pinnacle in a truly cathartic fashion, whereby Ruth comes to accept and love her Mother for all her flaws and shortcomings. Ultimately, Reichl concludes, her Mother loved her and wanted the best for her and Reichl finds peace with her own perception of her Mother.
I loved this book and you will, too because we all have Mothers that we love whether or not they can cook, clean or parent very well. This book left me feeling achingly grateful for my Mother and longing to be with her.
If nothing else, I hope this book will make you call your Mother.