The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 31, 2010

Jacque Gage, book review: Mother-daughter conflicts explored in two-part saga

By Jacque Gage
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Mothers and daughters and conflicts seem to be a universal issue. I’m sure every mother and/or daughter in history has at one time or another been at odds with, or misunderstood, their mom.

Most of the time, however, these issues are not life-threatening or even that long-standing. Of course, there is always the exception to the rule.

I think it would be correct to assume Lizzie Borden had some conflicts with her mother. Christina Crawford, author of “Mommie Dearest,” also obviously had unresolved conflicts with her celebrity mother, Joan Crawford.

The books I’m mentioning today do not feature family rifts of that magnitude. Written by inspirational author Francine Rivers, “Marta’s Legacy” is a two-book series including “Her Mother’s Hope” and “Her Daughter’s Dream.” These two books explore a family’s mother-daughter relationships through four generations spanning almost a century, taking place in both Europe and North America.

If you plan to read either of these books, you must read both. I discovered this the hard way. I missed the print on the back of the audio version of “Her Mother’s Hope” that said “Part 1.” I was happily listening to the book when it just ended and left me hanging. My mouth dropped open in horror, because the story was unfinished, and I thought I was reading a stand-alone title.

Not so. Read both, or none; you will be unsatisfied doing it any other way.

The first book in the series, “Her Mother’s Hope,” begins in Switzerland as Marta, a girl much loved by a weak mother but abused by her father, escapes her local village and sets out to make a better life.

Although her father refused to allow her much schooling, Marta is strong and determined to advance, learn and better herself. She works as a domestic for a variety of people, and in the process learns to speak French and English.

From her job in England, she travels to Canada to open a boardinghouse, her life’s dream. There, she meets Niclas, a university-trained engineer who hates engineering and would prefer to work the land. They marry and begin a family.

The birth of their daughter, Hildemara, begins the mother-daughter cycle. Hildie is weak at birth, and Marta decides she must raise her with tough love in order to make her strong and able to survive. No one knows why she is so hard on her daughter, and Marta will not share her reasons.

Hildie becomes a nurse, and exposure and subsequent illnesses with tuberculosis causes her daughter, Carolyn, to bond with her “oma,” Marta. Thus, the second generation of discord is sown.

Carolyn leaves for college in San Francisco, and a family tragedy causes her to “turn on, tune in and drop out” of society, only returning home when she reluctantly returns with her daughter, May Flower Dawn.

Dawn, as did her mother, bonded and connected only with her grandmother Hildie, but as she grows as a person, she vows that someday she will be able to reunite the generations of the women in their family as one.

These are Rivers’ first full-length novels since 2003. Readers who have enjoyed her previous works or enjoy inspirational fiction should put these books on their “to-read” list. Joplin Public Library has them in several formats: regular print, large print, CD and MP3 format CDs.

If you enjoy these books, you might also enjoy Lyn Cote’s “Women of Ivy Manor” series. JPL has this series only on CD. These books also feature complex relationships between mothers and daughters and span decades across families.

Jacque Gage is the director of the Joplin Public Library.