“…and the day is bright blue, in the cherry tree above her head, filled with white blossoms. Maman gives her a plate with a piece of her almond cake, and as Hannah takes her first mouthful, she thinks to herself, this is what I must write about, now, soon, for I am a poet, and the world is a poem…”
Reading Group Guide
Hannah Pearl can’t always remember her daughter’s name or the Connecticut town she lives in, yet she is beset with earlier memories of the German invasion of France in 1940. Her story — half-known and half-guessed at by her daughter and granddaughters — has become woven into their daily life, in ways both poignant and inspiring.
Someone Not Really Her Mother has also been published in Japan and the Netherlands.
A Good Morning America “Read This!” Book Club
IndieNext / BookSense pick
“This novel intricately reveals the fleetingness of memory and the delicate lacework of love between mothers and daughters. This is a lovely and poignant story to savor.”
“Powerful . . . One of the best books of the year.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
Coming into the kitchen, looking over Isaac Shipman’s shoulder, Ida sees jugs of milk, cartons of Tropicana, a half-full jar of apple juice, a bowl of leftover chicken legs, fizzy water, children’s yogurts in bright containers. She wishes to touch Isaac’s back, to feel the skin under his shirt, the warmth of him, but instead she walks to the sink at the kitchen window. A slippery avocado pit sits in a glass jar, its bottom half in water, toothpicks propping it up. Outside, the marmalade cat sleeps on a chair near a large rectangular garden bed, its soil recently turned and ready for seeds. A tricycle waits on the driveway, a swing under a big tree.
“I have to go,” Ida says hurriedly. “Don’t worry about the water.”
Isaac turns to look at her, the fridge door still open.
How she walks out of the kitchen, how she opens the front door, how she can’t help turning to kiss Isaac full on the mouth, his scent still salt and lemon, and something more now too, how she turns again to walk across the porch and down the stairs, how she looks over her shoulder to see Isaac in the open door, his face illuminated, worried, yearning, tired, utterly known and not known, loved and spurned, regretted and kept safely somewhere inside her, she has no idea. As she finds her way down the pebbled walk, her vision blurry, she holds the poem tightly in her hand. She’s crying now, but as if on the horizon, or around the next block, she senses the first line of her fourth stanza waiting patiently for her arrival.