When I was writing my last novel, The Widow Waltz [Viking, $27.95], which explores a mother's relationship with her two young adult daughters, I read whatever I could get my hands on about maternal ties between generations. This year, in time for Mother's Day, give Mom a novel that celebrates this subject. She doesn't really need another plant. Among the best:
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
In 1949 four recent Chinese immigrants to San Francisco begin a regular mahjong game, calling themselves the Joy Luck Club. Amy Tan digs deep into the mother-daughter connection as each older woman, over the course of decades, reveals dark secrets. This jewel of a novel enjoyed almost two years on bestseller lists. Witty, poetic, heartwarming.
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
The Patron Saint of Liars is the debut novel that launched Ann Patchett's extraordinary career. When Rose Clinton's baby arrives she decides to continue to live amid the caring nuns and frantic teenagers she meets at the Kentucky home for unwed mothers where the baby is born. Sensitive, lyrical, restrained.
The Pure Golden Child by Margaret Drabble
An affair with her married professor turns Jessica into the single mum of a sunny girl with serious learning problems. Set in London and told from the unusual viewpoint of Jessica's supportive circle of friends, much beloved English author Margaret Drabble most recent book shows how motherhood transforms us. Intimate, intelligent, thought-provoking.
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
The Distant Hours is Australian author Kate Morton's homage to gothic fiction. It begins with the discovery of a letter, lost for 50 years, that leads Edie to a decaying English castle. As she searches for clues to her mother's past, the protagonist uncovers far more than she expects. Haunting, romantic, suspenseful.
The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante
The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante explores a 47-year-old divorcee's maternal ambivalence and regret as she becomes obsessed with a young mother she meets while vacationing on the Italian coast. Their acquaintance sets in motion a series of disturbing events. Candid, hopeful, scary.
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
The mother of Astrid, the teenage narrator of Janet Fitch's masterpiece, murdered a lover who abandoned her. This leads to a life imprisonment, leaving Astrid to teach herself the art of survival in a string of Los Angeles foster homes. Dark, lyrical, intense.
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Before loss and loneliness invaded her life, a lake in the Georgia swampland is where Kate spent her best summer. When she and her daughter return there, they meet others searching, as they are, for second chances and healed hearts. Atmospheric, enchanting, optimistic.
In Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
At the heart of Dorothy Allison's semi-autobiographical story is Bone, who sharply observes her white trash South Carolina world, home to dangerous men, tough women who marry them young and get old fast, and kids with no protection. Critics rank this novel with William Faulkner, Harper Lee and Flannery O'Connor. Profound, powerful, emotional.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
In an entirely different sort of Southern classic by Rebecca Wells, for 60 years a gaggle of feisty gal pals, a.k.a. the Ya-Yas, have been shaking things up down in Louisiana. When one member and her daughter squabble, the gang intercedes. Emotional, engaging, high-spirited.