Mother Daughter Me

A Memoir

Overview | Articles | Q&A

The complex, deeply binding relationship between mothers and daughters is brought vividly to life in Katie Hafner’s remarkable memoir, an exploration of the year she and her mother, Helen, spent working through, and triumphing over, a lifetime of unresolved emotions.

Dreaming of a “year in Provence” with her mother, Katie urges Helen to move to San Francisco to live with her and Zoë, Katie’s teenage daughter. She and Zoë had become a mother-daughter team, strong enough, Katie thought, to absorb the arrival of a 77-year old woman set in her ways.

Filled with fairytale hope that she and her mother would become friends, and that Helen would become close to her exceptional granddaughter, Katie embarked on an experiment in intergenerational living that she would soon discover was filled with landmines: memories of her parents’ painful divorce, of her mother’s binge drinking and neglect of Katie and her sister, of dislocating moves back and forth across the country, and of Katie’s own widowhood and bumpy recovery. Helen, for her part, was also holding difficult issues at bay.

How these three women from such different generations learn to navigate their challenging, turbulent and ultimately healing journey together makes for riveting reading. By turns heartbreaking and funny- and always insightful- Katie Hafner’s brave and loving book answers questions about the universal truths of family that are central to the lives of so many.


Abraham Vergheseauthor of Cutting for Stone
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“This brilliant, funny, poignant, and wrenching story of three generations under one roof is quite unlike anything I have ever read. I love Hafner’s prose, her humor, the images she conjures, her choices of what to tell and when, the weaving together of family threads to produce this luminous and lasting tapestry. The story lingered with me long after I read the last page.”
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“Weaving past with present, anecdote with analysis, Hafner’s riveting account of multigenerational living and mother-daughter frictions, of love and forgiveness, is devoid of self-pity and unafraid of self-blame.”
Jane SmileyHarper's Magazine
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“Mother Daughter Me delivers an unusually graceful story, one that balances honesty and tact…Hafner narrates the events so adeptly that they feel enlightening rather than enervating.”
Parade Magazine
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“Scrap any romantic ideas about what goes on when a 40-something woman invites her mother to live with her and her teenage daughter for a year. As Hafner hilariously and touchingly tells it, being the center of a family sandwich is, well, complicated.”
Motherlode BlogThe New York Times
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“The Best Memoir I’ve Read This Year”
USA Today
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“Hafner has written a touching saga that shines in its normalcy.”
Kirkus Reviews
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“In a narrative that skillfully moves between her present predicament and her difficult childhood, Hafner offers a compelling portrait of her remarkable mother and their troubled relationship. . . . Heartbreakingly honest.”
Slate Magazine
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“With crystalline prose and impressive narrative control, Hafner candidly probes a host of issues: the lingering impact of alcoholism and parental abandonment on adult children, how dysfunction ripples through future generations, whether it is necessary to confront the past in order to redeem it.”
Madeleine BlaisPulitzer Prize winner and author of Uphill Walkers
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“Katie Hafner’s new memoir is an emotional whodunit, as the author uses brilliant journalistic acumen to crack the code of old family secrets. Told with humor and candor in equal parts, Mother Daughter Me is at heart a love letter, to the father who never understood his daughter, the stepmother who tried to be welcoming, the sister who fought the good fight, the husband whose good life was cut short way too early, the daughter who is and also will be the still point of the author’s turning world. Haunting it all is a now elderly mother who is as frustrating as she is admirable. A family saga, about wrenching truths, gently told.”
Elizabeth Benedictbestselling novelist and editor of What My Mother Gave Me: 31 Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most
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“Katie Hafner is a first-rate storyteller, and Mother Daughter Me is a rare, utterly riveting memoir about her year of living dangerously with her aging mother and her volatile teenage daughter. Hafner writes with a deceptively light touch about the darkest subjects: a lifetime of psychic pain, childhood upheaval, her mother’s alcoholism, her beloved husband’s sudden death, and her own deep yearning for insight, wisdom, and connection. What a triumph this is, and what a story.”