Shadow Daughter: A Memoir of Estrangement

Shadow Daughter: A Memoir of Estrangement

by Harriet Brown


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A riveting, provocative, and ultimately hopeful exploration of mother-daughter estrangement, woven with research and anecdotes, from an award-winning journalist.

The day of her mother's funeral, Harriet Brown was five thousand miles away. For years they'd gone through cycles of estrangement and connection, drastic blow-ups and equally dramatic reconciliations. By the time her mother died at seventy-six, they hadn't spoken at all in several years. Her mother's death sent Brown on a journey of exploration, one that considered guilt and trauma, rage and betrayal, and forgiveness.

Shadow Daughter tackles a subject we rarely discuss as a culture. Family estrangements — between parents and children, siblings, multiple generations — are surprisingly common, and even families that aren't officially estranged often have some experience of deep conflicts. Despite the fact that the issue touches most people one way or another, estrangement is still shrouded in secrecy, stigma, and shame. We simply don't talk about it, and that silence can make an already difficult situation even harder. Brown tells her story with clear-eyed honesty and hard-won wisdom; she also shared interviews with others who are estranged, as well as the most recent research on this taboo topic.

Ultimately, Shadow Daughter is a thoughtful, provocative, and deeply researched exploration of the ties that bind and break, forgiveness, reconciliation, and what family really means.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780738234533
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 11/06/2018
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 377,223
Product dimensions: 5.95(w) x 8.75(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Harriet Brown is the author of Body of Truth and Brave Girl Eating. She has edited two anthologies and has written for the New York Times Magazine, O Magazine, Psychology Today, Prevention, and many other publications. She is a professor of magazine journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Table of Contents

A Note to Readers xi

Prologue: First and Last xiii

1 Thicker Than Water 1

2 The Roots of Estrangement 25

3 Mean Mothers (and Fathers) 47

4 The Myth of the Worst-Case Scenario 81

5 The Last Straw 105

6 Love: The Unresolvable Dilemma 131

7 The Half-Life of Grief 167

8 On Forgiveness 177

9 Out of the Shadow 215

Acknowledgments 235

Notes 237

Index 243

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Shadow Daughter: A Memoir of Estrangement 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
LeslieLindsay More than 1 year ago
An interwoven tapestry of personal story and research, SHADOW DAUGHTER sets out to uncover the guilt, trauma, rage, betrayal, and more when it comes to family estrangement. Research shows that seven percent of all people are estranged from a parent or sibling. But what, exactly, does estrangement consist of? No contact whatsoever? A greeting card here and there? What if you just try to avoid that person? And what about the shame factor? What kind of person breaks ties with their family? And so it goes. Harriet Brown deftly interweaves her personal story of estrangement with her mother, along with anecdotes, plus research from clinicians and researchers, giving a broader definition of 'estrangement.' SHADOW DAUGHTER (DaCapo Press, November 2018) reads a bit academically--that is, it's packed with much research--but don't let that fool you. Brown is sympathetic, intelligent, and nurturing. She and her mother have gone in cycles of connection and estrangement nearly all of her life. On the day of her mother's funeral, following a battle with cancer, Brown is 5,000 miles away, hiking in Hawaii with her husband and two daughters. I completely identified with Brown's experience. My own mother 'died' when I was ten and she had her first psychotic episode. Over the years, her illness would improve, and so would our relationship. We were estranged when she died by suicide. Here, in SHADOW DAUGHTER, Brown presents dozens of narratives from people who have been estranged--men and women, young and old, and those of all professions--she uncovers many of the causes of estrangement--physical or sexual abuse; others from emotional or psychological trauma, manipulation.I found myself nodding at the stories because I 'got it,' I had lived it. I'm on the fence about ratings...this was presented as a 'memoir,' but I felt it was more like a non-fiction, self-help type read. Still good, mind you, just a little different than expected. However, Harriet Brown is a journalist by profession and that's quite evident in how this narrative is structured. I found some passages (mostly on the research and anecdotes) redundant. Still, we see Brown's growth, experience her feelings, and I wanted more of that. That said, I feel SHADOW DAUGHTER is just as important, just as poignant as Hope Edelman's MOTHERLESS DAUGHTERS (1994) L. Lindsay Always with a Book