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Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories by…
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Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories

by Bonnie Jo Campbell

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Loved this book! Every story is like a glimpse into a person I haven't imagined before. ( )
  aprille | Nov 20, 2016 |
Book on CD read by Christina Delaine

From the book jacket The strong but flawed women of Mothers, Tell your Daughters must negotiate a sexually charged atmosphere as they love, honor, and betray one another against the backdrop of all the men in their world. Such richly fraught mother-daughter relationships can be lifelines, anchors, or they can sink a woman like a stone.

My reactions
I think it was a mistake to read/listen to Campbell’s novel (Once Upon a River) back-to-back with this collection of short stories. I can take only so much distress, so much sexual tension and acting out, so much of watching women make bad choice after bad choice after even worse choice. There were a few stories that were quite funny in their hysteria – a young bride convinced her ex-husband was reincarnated in the mongrel dog she has adopted, or a pregnant woman imagining all the possible hazards (shoelaces, paperclips, the refrigerator…) her soon-to-be-born baby will face. But most were distressingly dismal and depressing.

And, frankly, I just have to wonder what kind of background the author has to write such gritty scenes – mothers virtually selling their daughters to a man, daughters overtly stealing their mothers’ boyfriends, rapes and molestations, cruelty and despair. Campbell took me to a dark place, and I’m glad to be out of there and back in the sunlight.

Christina Delaine does a very good job performing the audio version. She had a plethora of characters to portray and she was definitely up to the task. ( )
  BookConcierge | Aug 27, 2016 |
Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell is a highly recommended well written collection of 16 short stories featuring tough, marginalized, deeply flawed working-class women who are in unbalanced and unhealthy relationships. Most of these stories are heart breaking and the characters acceptance of abuse is disturbing, albeit realistic.

Stories in the collection include:

Sleepover: Two teenage girls and their boyfriends
Playhouse: A young woman, who doesn't quite remember the previous night, hurts her arm when helping her brother fix a playhouse for her niece
Tell Yourself: A mother worries about her daughter
The Greatest Show on Earth: What There Was, 1982: Buckeye and Mike are in a relationship and in the circus.
My Dog Roscoe: Pregnant Sarah believes Roscoe, the stray dog she took in, is her deceased boyfriend Oscar.
Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: An inner monologue directed to the daughter of a dying woman who has had a stroke and is unable to speak.
My Sister Is in Pain: a sister in pain "Stabbing pain sixty hours a week as she bathes and medicates and tends to the needs and the pain of others for minimum wage, throbbing pain when she has a day off..."
A Multitude of Sins: An abused wife is caring for her dying husband in their home.
To You, as a Woman: What a woman might have to do to survive.
Daughters of the Animal Kingdom: A beleaguered woman biologists talks about her life.
Somewhere Warm: A woman wants to create a place of love for her family
My Bliss: things she married
Blood Work, 1999: A woman spends her life and inheritance giving to others.
Children of Transylvania, 1983: A woman and her sisters take a bicycle trip in Romania.
Natural Disasters: A baby shower takes place during a tornado warning
The Fruit of the Pawpaw Tree: a hot summer on the farm where work never ends


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of W. W. Norton & Co for review purposes. ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
MOTHERS, TELL YOUR DAUGHTERS: STORIES, by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

There are sixteen stories here and if there is any unifying theme to be found it may be that men are untrustworthy, lying, "cheating, troubling sons of bitches ("The Fruit of the Pawpaw Tree")." Which is, essentially, what mothers should probably tell their daughters. Because the women who tell these stories have all, in one way or another, been beaten, molested, raped, abused, and abandoned by men who took what they wanted and then left. And most of them, like Jill, an adjunct professor, mother of four daughters (the youngest unwed and pregnant), finds herself pregnant again at 47 by her faithless professor husband who dallies with young students, are "not feeling terribly sympathetic toward the male of any species just now" ("Daughters of the Animal Kingdom").

The women who are on the receiving end of this brutal-to-indifferent treatment react in various ways. Some are mostly passive, choosing to re-paint their lives in pastel colors of love, like Sherry, a single mother whose much younger lover runs off with Sherry's teenage daughter ("Somewhere Warm"). Then there is the unnamed narrator in "To You, As a Woman," who is treated like an animal, abused and raped, but keeps on doing whatever she has to do to take care of her two young children. Almost all of these women, of course, are going it on their own, discards of men, and often of society itself. Denizens of the hard-scrabble unemployed or just barely making ends meet, they are, many of them, struggling desperately to get by.."

My favorite here is a story that doesn't fit this mold, "Children of Transylvania, 1983" about a woman biking through Romania. Very different from the others.

Campbell established herself firmly as a spokesperson for broken, damaged, abused women in her earlier book, AMERICAN SALVAGE, and she continues to give them a voice in this new collection. She has an uncanny and unerring ear for the way these women speak, and gives voice to their most secret and unspoken thoughts. And despite the grim subject and settings, she also displays a dry and often ribald sense of earthy humor.

I like the way Bonnie Jo Campbell writes. She knows her subjects and she knows her way around a good sentence and the English language. It's her subjects and this unrelenting theme of "men as bastards" that makes me uncomfortable. Which makes me wonder if that makes her a "women's writer." Because I know other men who feel the same way about her work - uncomfortable, a bit squirmy, maybe. So here's the thing. This is five-star writing. But, frankly, I was just a bit relieved to come to the end of these stories. So I can't really say I loved it. Hence my 4 stars. Having said all this, highly recommended, because this woman can write! ( )
1 vote TimBazzett | Oct 23, 2015 |
I liked Campbell’s previous collection of short stories (American Salvage) and I loved this one. No first words of stories have captured me as quickly as each of these, and then held me their whole lengths, with their rural southwestern Michigan settings and lower-middle-class characters. I was chilled by their collective (and a bit repetitive) theme of women’s and girls’ vulnerability to men, and more so by the lengths women go to in avoiding and recovering from those harms.

Campbell’s stories remind me of Jo Ann Beard’s (The Boys of My Youth), although Campbell’s settings are a little bleaker and her characters a little rougher/tougher (at least on the outside). Readers of one author will enjoy the work of the other. Readers new to both will have a lot of great stories ahead of them.

(Review based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher.) ( )
  DetailMuse | Oct 3, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393248453, Hardcover)

From the National Book Award finalist and author of Once Upon a River comes a dazzling story collection featuring ferocious mothers and scrappy daughters.

The strong but flawed women of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters love and betray one another; their richly fraught relationships can act as anchors, lifelines, or deadly poison. Bonnie Jo Campbell’s working-class protagonists are at once vulnerable, wise, cruel, and funny, and they are always getting into or out of trouble.

In “My Dog Roscoe,” a new bride becomes obsessed with the notion that her dead ex-boyfriend has returned to her in the form of a mongrel. In “Blood Work, 1999,” a phlebotomist’s desire to give away everything to the needy awakens her own sensuality. In “Home to Die,” an abused woman takes revenge on her bedridden husband. In these fearless and darkly funny tales about women and those they love, Campbell has created characters that will capture the hearts and minds of her readers.

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(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 15 Jul 2015 18:45:53 -0400)

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