Friday, July 30, 2010

Mini-Review: Letter to my Daughter

by:   George Bishop
Published by Ballantine Books
copyright 2010
rating:  3 out of 5

In the early spring I was in a local bookstore with a friend browsing though the new releases, which is my absolute favorite past time.  I saw the title of this book and was intrigued.  I read the first paragraph:
Dear Elizabeth:
How to begin this?  It's early morning and I'm sitting here wondering where you are, hoping you're all right.  I haven't slept since you left.  Your father says there's no sense in phoning the police yet; you're probably just blowing off steam, and you'll be back as soon as you run out of money or the car runs out of gas, whichever comes first.  I shouldn't be so hard on myself, he says,  What with the way you spoke to me last night, it would take more forbearance than anyone's capable of not to react the way I did, and besides, it wasn't even that much of a slap.
I was immediately riveted.  This was a letter from a mother to a run away daughter -- I assume a teenager.  But wait?  Who was the author of the book again?  George Bishop.  Now this is interesting - a man writing as a mother to her rebellious daughter.  I knew I had to read it.

As is typical for new releases, I had to wait about a month before I was able to borrow the book from my local library.  I waited until the day before it was due to read it (which I easily read in one sitting).  I had every intention to write the review immediately, but then life happened.

So here I am - several months after reading the book with little more to write than my initial impressions.

I liked it.  I think I was perhaps more impressed with the author's ability to write as a convincing female than perhaps I was with the story itself.  In my humble opinion, he nailed her voice:  the deep affection for her daughter, coupled with the high levels of frustration associated with raising said daughter.  I know some may disagree -- but I think there is definitely something to the Daddy's Little Girl and Mama's Boy syndrome than just myth.  Mothers and daughters tend to fight and there is definitely a period of time where they rarely see eye to eye.  I was captivated by his talent at capturing this subtle detail in such a realistic way.

The mother begins this letter - obviously feeling remorse for having slapped her child and perhaps guilt for a possible negative outcome due to her running away -- in order to keep her mind from going down paths that she would rather not pursue (there are too many headline news stories that do not end well for runaways).  The daughter is missing for an entire day (nearly 24 hours) so the letter is along one.

The letter also serves to tell her background story to her daughter, to show that they are really not as different from one another as each might have thought.  While her story is definitely not my story, --- I do believe that all mothers and daughters share a common bond that for some reason they are reluctant to admit until later in life.
Waiting for you, writing this letter, I feel like I'm teetering between these two sentiments, a pessimism born of experience and a desperate hope born of helplessness.  In dredging up these old griefs from my past, I cling to the thought that this act itself will somehow create a better future for both of us, that with these words I'll weave a charm that will spell our reconciliation and draw you home.  (page 70)
The story does end on a hopeful note and I felt satisfied in the end.  In fact, it made me wonder if perhaps more mother/daughter relationships can be repaired "before it is too late" by the simple act of writing an honest, heart-to-heart letter.  Sometimes the free flow of words (without the heated interruptions and need to defend) can be a cleansing, reconciliatory activity for all.

So while I would recommend the book, I will do so with this caveat.  A good friend of mine read the book and was not at all impressed.  She surmised that perhaps it is because she raised only sons.  I think I might agree with her assumption.   Perhaps there is the need to have an intimate knowledge of that mother/daughter relationship to fully appreciate this epistle.  Have any of you read this book?  I would love to hear your opinions.


  1. This book has been flitting around in my peripheral vision, but haven't picked it up. My daughter, who is 12 and change, has been taken over by an alien spirit I think. All we do is bicker! So I can totally relate with the frustration/guilt/love that exists between a mother and her daughter. I'm impressed that the author is a male. Obviously this guy has lived amongst women!

  2. I must admit, that opening paragraph drew me in as well. You are spot on that mothers and daughters tend to bicker and fight the most, and sometimes it's truly just silly little things, isn't it? How devastating though, for the daughter to have run away/gone missing after one of those silly little moments.

  3. I have a son and daughter and rated this book a 4/5. I liked it, but don't ask me why...LOL

  4. I only have a son and I liked this book and would probably rate it a 4. I agree that the author nailed the mother's voice.

  5. I'm intrigued by the fact that the author is a man who is writing the voice of the woman character. And I'm impressed that he got it right. I've been hearing about this one for awhile and think I will pick it up to see what I think of it. I have a son, not a daughter, but can remember the relationship I had with my mom as a teenager and the friction that was sometimes present.

  6. I have been pretty interested in reading this one since I first saw it for the same reasons you found captivating. Great review!

  7. I enjoyed this book, but I think you nailed it when you mention that my enjoyment came more from realizing that a man could write so well of a woman/mother's psyche. It was amazing, wasn't it?

  8. I've totally missed seeing this book! Sounds good too.

  9. Well, I don't know. If you are a daughter then you surely have some idea of the mother-daughter relationship. Not sure if it's for me though.

  10. I am raising a daughter--about the same age--and, while I liked the story in the letter, I found it hard to believe that a mother would pass this time writing.

  11. I have the awful feeling that this book would literally hit a bit too close to home for me. But I like your review. So interesting that he chose to have the mother write the letter. Wonder what the father would have said?

  12. I have seen this book all around, but never gave it a second glance. Your review was great and made me really want to read the book. Thanks

  13. You write an intriguing review here, Molly, and pose an interesting question with your friend's surmising that it was because she raised sons. I would still think it would be interesting because, though the mother of sons, she is still a daughter with a mother/daughter relationship. I have two daughters and would be drawn to the story from that standpoint, though our relationships have been good and my mom is deceased, but, there was a good but different relationship there. Thank you for bringing Letter to My Daughter our way.

  14. It is interesting to think about whether you would relate to this as much if you didn't have a daughter. I love the premise of it though.

  15. (Hopefully I won't lose my comment this time to some error! I forgot what I said originally.)

    I really liked this book and could relate to the mother-daughter tension. I thought the book was more about Laura coming to terms with the events of her past, as the daughter's running away seemed almost secondary. But it worked.

    I'll link to your review on War Through the Generations.


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