This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day (subtle reminder!) so what better time than to hear from author Julie Cohen about the books that remind her of reading with her mother? No better time. I agree! And because timing is everything, I’ll mention that I just read Julie’s next novel–WHERE LOVE LIES. It’s already a smash in the UK, and now it will be published in the good ol’ USA as well. Lucky us!
Please welcome Julie Cohen to WFW, and share some of your favorite reads for Mother’s Day, or any day, in the comments.
Books to read with your mother
Like a lot of bookworms, I inherited my love of reading from my parents. The house where I grew up in Maine was on the top of a hill, and the library was at the bottom. As a child I would browse the children’s section, which was in the basement, while my mother selected books upstairs from the main library. The walk back home, up the hill, was the best part: even though you were carrying a stack of books you could walk slowly, opening covers and sampling what was inside, planning which book you would start reading first.
Although my mother taught me a love of reading, she and I don’t completely share tastes in books. She’s not as fond as I am of science fiction or horror or Jane Austen. But I’ve learned that I’ll almost always like a book that she likes, and she’s recommended wonderful books to me such as The Shipping News by Annie Proulx and The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve. And I first read Little Women by stealing her copy. Likewise The Color Purple.
Here are some books that remind me of reading with my mother:
When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood
This is a wonderful, lyrical, emotional memoir of growing up in Mexico, Maine, right across the river from Rumford, which is the town where my mother and I both grew up. It’s the story of a Catholic family of four girls who lose their father, who works in the local paper mill. As my mother grew up Catholic with three sisters and a brother, and her father worked in this same paper mill, the story really resonated with her. But it’s a universal story of mothers and daughters, of loss and hope, and I recommend it to everyone.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
I remember my mother reading this to me before bed when I was a little girl. She read me a lot of books—I can’t read Goodnight Moon without hearing the cadence of her voice in my head, and every single time we go blueberry picking we remember reading Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky. But Charlotte’s Web stands out, probably because the mere title of the book has the power to move both my mother and me to tears. When I was pregnant with my son, we went to see a film together and there was a trailer for Charlotte’s Web. Sure enough: as soon as we knew which book it was, we both started sobbing. Two grown women, turned into gibbering wrecks, by the best spider the world has ever known.
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
This is sort of a guilty pleasure. At Christmas, Mom and I wait until all the menfolk are out of the house and we sit down and watch Call the Midwife on television together. My mom was a nurse and she loves the vintage nursing aspect of it. But mostly we both love the characters of plucky midwife Jenny and her friends, Trixie, Cynthia and Chummy. I bought her the original trilogy of memoirs that the series is based on, and we both devoured it.
Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi
My mother is a fantastic cook and she’s passed on her love of food to her children. Jerusalem is a cookbook but also a sumptuously-illustrated appreciation of Israeli food. My brother actually bought Jerusalem for Mom but she keeps it on her coffee table, and I am always leafing through it. We’ve both tried recipes from it (we love the burnt eggplant), and when she’s in England visiting me we’ve shared some special mother-daughter lunches at Yotam Ottolenghi’s London restaurant, Nopi.
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris
I’m sort of cheating with this one, because Mom hasn’t read it yet. But I just finished reading this story of marriage and love in an orthodox Jewish community in London, and as soon as I finished, I called my mother to tell her to read it. It’s got everything we both enjoy in a book: strong and vibrant female characters, a real sense of place and community, and the use of food to portray culture and tradition. I think she’s going to love it.
Julie Cohen grew up in Maine and studied English at Brown University and Cambridge University. She then moved to the UK permanently, where she taught English before becoming a writer. Her books have won or been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Award, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the HOLT Medallion. She now writes full-time and teaches creative writing. She lives with her husband and son in Berkshire, England, where she is teased daily about her American accent.
After years of watching her best friends, Ben and Claire, try for a baby, Romily has offered to give them the one thing that they want most.
Romily expects it will be easy to be a surrogate. She’s already a single mother, and she has no desire for any more children. But Romily isn’t prepared for the overwhelming feelings that have taken hold of her and that threaten to ruin her friendship with Ben and Claire—and even destroy their marriage.