Kim Chernin, in In My Mother's House: A Daughter's Story, is as much about telling stories as it is about the specific story of the author and her relationship with her mother. It is a book about words, what words say and what words keep hidden. At the same time, it is about how words and stories hold the author and her mother together through the decades of their shared and separate lives. Chernin writes of the roles she and her mother took from the beginning of her life:
I came into the world as my mother's listener, saturated in the broodings, misunderstandings, visions of a life that had begun in the first year of the twentieth century. . . . [The two world] wars, the revolutions that followed them, the sufferings that gave rise to them, had made their way into my mother's stories, along with the lost world of European Jewish life (Chernin xi).
The book, then, is certainly the story of how the author's life is shaped by her mother, and by her mother's stories, but it is finally more about her own stories and the meaning they give to her experiences.
The unique adventures of her mother's life make the author's own life unique, and seem to make her life and family realities markedly different from my own. In comparison, my own life, and particularly my mother's influence and my relationship with her, seem quite different, at least on the surface. At first glance, it would seem that my own life and relationship with my mother were fairly prosaic, compared with the exciting picture painted by Chernin of her own life and maternal relationship.
On the other hand, despite the difference in gender between myself and the author, our relationships with our mothers are similar in a more important sense. Despite any differences, the most significant comparison is the heritage passed from parent to child, and, some day, hopefully, from the adult child to the grandchild of the original parent. This heritage is passed along thro...