By Elissa Altman – Ballantine Books, 2019
Elissa Altman is an accomplished author and food writer, who, in Motherland, turns inward with a candid and heartfelt tale of growing up and growing older with her narcissistic, vain and controlling mother, Rita. Altman tries repeatedly to break from her mother’s emotional grasp. Finally, in her 40s, Altman asserts her independence, leaves Manhattan and moves to Connecticut to live with her wife. Mother and daughter could not be more different. Rita, once a singer of modest acclaim, is now a consumer of all things beauty, a real looker. Altman is attracted to men’s clothing, culinary pursuits, hearth and home. Altman knows she will never measure up to her mother’s expectations and won’t be truly free until she can let go but still answers when Rita calls. It’s a contentious and codependent relationship at best, and just when there could be light at the end of the tunnel for Altman, Rita suffers a fall that leaves her needing—and at times, refusing—her daughter’s help. In a study of how not to age with grace, Altman tells the story with cringe-worthy honesty; you’ll laugh and shudder in equal measure.