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Unless: Reviewed

Author:Carol Shields
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2002

"What did Cinderella's mother die of?," my daughter asked me, when she was 4. I myself had never troubled to think about this. But I came to realize that, in stories for children, from fairy tales to adventures to Walt Disney musicals, the mothers' presence is usually notable for its absence. Their deaths are required so that plots can unfold.

And yet, I have recently come across a few novels that consider thoughtfully the role(s) a mother may play in her daughter's future. In the two grimmest, White Oleander and The Book of Ruth, the power of the mothers to destroy their daughters despite great distance, time, and, in the case of White Oleander, despite tall prison walls, is absolute.

...

Unless and What To Keep convey more nuanced messages. In Unless, a mother is beside herself at her daughter's transformation from promising college student into street person. Eventually, the mother reassures herself that not every activity she undertakes is invested with deep meaning and that she is not responsible for every anguish that afflicts every member of her family.

...

This book is more fully reviewed in our discussion of some books about the relationships between moms and their daughters.

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Other reviews: Unless
 
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