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This provocative, poignant memoir of a daughter whose mother left her behind by choice begs the question: Are we destined to make the same mistakes as our parents? One summer, Melissa Cistaro's mother drove off without explanation Devastated, Melissa and her brothers were left to pick up the pieces, always tormented by the thought: Why did their mother abandon them? Thirty-f This provocative, poignant memoir of a daughter whose mother left her behind by choice begs the question: Are we destined to make the same mistakes as our parents? One summer, Melissa Cistaro's mother drove off without explanation Devastated, Melissa and her brothers were left to pick up the pieces, always tormented by the thought: Why did their mother abandon them? Thirty-five years later, with children of her own, Melissa finds herself in Olympia, Washington, as her mother is dying. After decades of hiding her painful memories, she has just days to find out what happened that summer and confront the fear she could do the same to her kids. But Melissa never expects to stumble across a cache of letters her mother wrote to her but never sent, which could hold the answers she seeks. Haunting yet ultimately uplifting, Pieces of My Mother chronicles one woman's quest to discover what drives a mother to walk away from the children she loves. Alternating between Melissa's tumultuous coming-of-age and her mother's final days, this captivating memoir reveals how our parents' choices impact our own and how we can survive those to forge our own paths.


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This provocative, poignant memoir of a daughter whose mother left her behind by choice begs the question: Are we destined to make the same mistakes as our parents? One summer, Melissa Cistaro's mother drove off without explanation Devastated, Melissa and her brothers were left to pick up the pieces, always tormented by the thought: Why did their mother abandon them? Thirty-f This provocative, poignant memoir of a daughter whose mother left her behind by choice begs the question: Are we destined to make the same mistakes as our parents? One summer, Melissa Cistaro's mother drove off without explanation Devastated, Melissa and her brothers were left to pick up the pieces, always tormented by the thought: Why did their mother abandon them? Thirty-five years later, with children of her own, Melissa finds herself in Olympia, Washington, as her mother is dying. After decades of hiding her painful memories, she has just days to find out what happened that summer and confront the fear she could do the same to her kids. But Melissa never expects to stumble across a cache of letters her mother wrote to her but never sent, which could hold the answers she seeks. Haunting yet ultimately uplifting, Pieces of My Mother chronicles one woman's quest to discover what drives a mother to walk away from the children she loves. Alternating between Melissa's tumultuous coming-of-age and her mother's final days, this captivating memoir reveals how our parents' choices impact our own and how we can survive those to forge our own paths.

30 review for Pieces of My Mother: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carmen Blankenship

    This book hit such a chord in me that I really had a hard time discussing it for a bit. My situation is not the same but parrallel. I too made peace with my Mom but it was as I moved her in with me to care for her after her cancer diagnosis. I had the most intense, important, healing, painful, and jarring 4 months of my life. When I held my Mom as she passed I was blessed with a heart that was mended and an understanding of my Mother on a human level. What a gift. This book can be dark but this This book hit such a chord in me that I really had a hard time discussing it for a bit. My situation is not the same but parrallel. I too made peace with my Mom but it was as I moved her in with me to care for her after her cancer diagnosis. I had the most intense, important, healing, painful, and jarring 4 months of my life. When I held my Mom as she passed I was blessed with a heart that was mended and an understanding of my Mother on a human level. What a gift. This book can be dark but this is Melissa Cistaro's truth. Not many people can put into words so eloquently the pain and confusion of being denied a mothers love. The thing about Memoirs is they are so deeply personal and to me... brave. For someone to turn their heart inside out for the world to see and judge is an astonishingly brave thing to do. While I am sure there are personal reasons for doing it also lets people know they are not alone. Thank you Melissa for sharing. Thank you Netgalley and Sourcebooks for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    M

    "I wouldn't trade my mom for any other in the world." Really? She drove off and left you at 3 years of age, etc. How about a little more kudos to your dad who never left you and the one deserving of your praise. "I wouldn't trade my mom for any other in the world." Really? She drove off and left you at 3 years of age, etc. How about a little more kudos to your dad who never left you and the one deserving of your praise.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Judy D Collins

    A special thank you to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for an ARC exchange for an honest review. Coming in Paperback, Feb 2, 2016. The word on the street is that Pieces of My Mother will be a great selection for book clubs! Melissa Cistaro courageously steps out to deliver a poignant memoir, PIECES OF MY MOTHER, a heartbreaking story, drawn from memory, letters, and early recollections of her own childhood and family trials. While trying to sort out her troubled family and a mother who left when she A special thank you to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for an ARC exchange for an honest review. Coming in Paperback, Feb 2, 2016. The word on the street is that Pieces of My Mother will be a great selection for book clubs! Melissa Cistaro courageously steps out to deliver a poignant memoir, PIECES OF MY MOTHER, a heartbreaking story, drawn from memory, letters, and early recollections of her own childhood and family trials. While trying to sort out her troubled family and a mother who left when she was a small girl, she reflects as a grown woman, while looking at her own family, and wonders genetics can spill over and make you question yourself as a mother. Are we destined to repeat our past environment? Perfect timing as we approach Mother’s Day, to appreciate our mothers, and realize some children do not always have the proper parents—ones to love and protect them, to serve as viable role models for their children. These children grow up always wondering if they were to blame for their parent’s absence, and desperately seek love and validation. As a child, Melissa sees her mother drive off while her dad informs the family their mother is "taking a break" from everyone and not very forthcoming about the details. They can only hope she will return for their birthday, or possibly a special holiday. However, when she does, is she really there? She and her brothers--Jamie and Eden, alone without a mother. Now a mother herself, how can she tell her daughter a dark truth, she was leavable and unkeepable. What if there is some sort of genetic family flaw, some kind of leaving gene that unexpectedly grabs hold of mothers like the ones in her family? What if the gene is lying dormant inside of her? What if her own daughter worries she may leave one day? She pictures her mom, a thousand miles away, and only visiting a few times, while each of the children carried "her leaving" in different ways. She took all the colors with her. She drifted in and out of their lives like live-in sitters, always seeming just out of reach. She wants her own daughter to feel safe and loved, not left the way she has always felt. Now years later, a mom with children of her own, she finds herself in Washington, as her mother is dying. Her mom has cirrhosis and liver cancer; all the years of drinking have caught up with her. All her fears surface. She is leaving once again. She will only be sixty five in five days and she promises her own family she will be home by New Year’s Eve. Her own family needs her and wants to make sure she WILL return. Her mom is as mysterious as ever, yet her mother surrounds herself with bits and pieces of life collected; a life she never really knew – the books she loved. Melissa began to fill her own notebooks, only attempting to understand her mom’s leaving, searching for memories that could rescue her. Believing that if she could dig up the goodness in the things that haunted her, there would be a chance she could save her mom, her brothers, her dad, and herself. If she can get the words right, maybe she can keep her alive. She wants desperately to understand a woman who is dying. As she is going through her mother’s things, she finds folders, letters, treasures, and all the while she recalls the days she was afraid to move to yet another house, for the fear her mom may not be able to find them; if and when, she would come back. Now, letters her mom never sent may provide her comfort and answers. Her mom and dad were both hoarders, coveting treasures and not one of these items will keep her alive. She too suffers from hanging on to things. However, as she reads her mom’s letters, thirty-six years have passed since she watched the her mom drive away in her baby-blue Dodge Dart, she still wonders what if she had called out to her, would she have stayed? Now she has to make the decision to leave her mom to die, to get back to her own family and a miracle of her own. A deeply moving complex, honest portrayal of family, of motherhood, yet uplifting and captivating; alternating between Melissa and her mother, we see firsthand how a parent’s choices impact their children’s lives for generations to come with emotional devastation. From regret, understanding, acceptance, to forgiveness; a book of the strong bonds of love and motherhood. What doesn't kill you, will fortunately make you stronger. JDC Must Read Books

  4. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    After finishing this book last night, I wanted to let thoughts linger before I wrote my review. The impact was so strong that I wanted time for it to settle. If I could give this book ten stars, I would. Cistaro has opened up her soul and poured it out onto paper for all of us to see. Insecurities, vulnerability, fear are all exposed. As a mother, I am keenly aware of the mistakes I have made and this book kept making me wonder what profound impact those errors have had onto my daughter. Cistaro's After finishing this book last night, I wanted to let thoughts linger before I wrote my review. The impact was so strong that I wanted time for it to settle. If I could give this book ten stars, I would. Cistaro has opened up her soul and poured it out onto paper for all of us to see. Insecurities, vulnerability, fear are all exposed. As a mother, I am keenly aware of the mistakes I have made and this book kept making me wonder what profound impact those errors have had onto my daughter. Cistaro's mother left so much "unsaid" by the end of her life and I feel challenged to not make the same misjudgement. When you open this book be ready for an eloquently written story, but also for moving self-examination. I believe PIECES OF MY MOTHER will be echoing through my mind for some time to come. DISCLAIMER: I was given an electronic copy of this book by NetGallery in exchange for an fair and honest review. I will be buying a physical copy of it for myself and my daughter. What a great way to have that conversation I feel compelled to have with her.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    3.5 stars A heartbreaking tale about forgiveness & how the human spirit can thrive and overcome hardships such as neglect & abuse. It's so beautifully written. Favorite line: "You walked away because you weren't strong enough to face the responsibilities of family--and the messy, maddening beauty of it." Oh!A line of truth that hits you like a punch to the gut that takes your breath away! The writing is just...simply...beautiful. 3.5 stars A heartbreaking tale about forgiveness & how the human spirit can thrive and overcome hardships such as neglect & abuse. It's so beautifully written. Favorite line: "You walked away because you weren't strong enough to face the responsibilities of family--and the messy, maddening beauty of it." Oh!A line of truth that hits you like a punch to the gut that takes your breath away! The writing is just...simply...beautiful.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeanie

    It didn’t occur to me that becoming a mother myself could wash to shore the wreckage of the past. To tell my daughter this truth is tell myself the darkest truth. That I was leavable. Unkeepable. This prose starts with a note to its reader reminding them the influence a parent as on its children. That their relationship whether they are physically/emotionally present or absent, shape us in countless of ways. This prose does not blame her mother for the distress she has, but she desires to underst It didn’t occur to me that becoming a mother myself could wash to shore the wreckage of the past. To tell my daughter this truth is tell myself the darkest truth. That I was leavable. Unkeepable. This prose starts with a note to its reader reminding them the influence a parent as on its children. That their relationship whether they are physically/emotionally present or absent, shape us in countless of ways. This prose does not blame her mother for the distress she has, but she desires to understand so that she can in turn love her own children and find love in herself. Mellissa was abandoned by her mother when she needed her mother the most. Leaving her and her brothers left her in pieces and broken and with relationship issues that with time are beginning to heal. Broken where there are dark and ugly places that have been locked up. Unable to trust others because of the abandonment of her mother, she lives in fear of all relationships. She picks up pieces of her mother thru letters that were never sent in a deep need to connect with her ailing mother before she dies. The narration is told in the past and as Mellissa stays with her mother as she waits for her to die. Having two children of her own now, her children are pieces of her that she treasures and leaving them is unthinkable. That is what makes her relationship with her mother so hard to comprehend. What will she find? Going back, Mellissa sees her mother for who she really is. Her own insecurities and with grace, she realizes that she would not want any other mother but the one she has. Her mother in her own way has taught her much about what love is and who she really is. This story was very personal to me. My own mother left my brother and me when I was 4 as well. About the same time that Mellissa’s mother left in the late 60’s. I remember every moment at the airport saying goodbye and not understanding. I also longed for my mother for 6 years. I did not see her again until I was 11. I thought of her every day and imagined my life differently. My relationship with my mom is good but there is a tension that will probably never go away. I guard my relationship with my husband and children fiercely because of my past. Everything she wrote resonated with me. Some of the quotes are profound. I am glad for time alone. It’s deeply wired in me. The long stretches of time that I spent in my room as a young girl balanced me. In my room, the world felt small and manageable. You left, you took the easy road out. I wish I could trust you. Sometimes I wish I had that mom. It’s not a lack of love but a fierce desire to be alone. I need it often, this solitude, this time to think and figure things out. That in overcoming the pain you have not had to close off your emotional self. That you are keeping in touch with your soul. It is no mistake that I have a daughter to teach me about the things I still need to learn. I write to understand myself and lure the voice inside me out of hiding. I wouldn’t trade my mom for any other in the world. Sometime amends come in other ways…that you have great family. Such an emotional read that will leave you vulnerable and a longing for the tender hearts of children. A Special Thank You to Sourcebooks and Netgalley for ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erin Shiba

    This memoir falls firmly into the category of "I'm sorry that your life sucked but that doesn't mean that you should write about it." Melissa Cistaros had a difficult childhood, and the constant non-presence of her mother probably made more of an impact than her presence ever could. It's hard to be a little girl without a mother. It's hard to be a big girl without a mother. And some of the ramifications of that raised by Cistaros are interesting and worthy of thought: How will my mothering be af This memoir falls firmly into the category of "I'm sorry that your life sucked but that doesn't mean that you should write about it." Melissa Cistaros had a difficult childhood, and the constant non-presence of her mother probably made more of an impact than her presence ever could. It's hard to be a little girl without a mother. It's hard to be a big girl without a mother. And some of the ramifications of that raised by Cistaros are interesting and worthy of thought: How will my mothering be affected by my lack of one? How much of the desire to escape from my children is genetic? How much am I going to fuck up my own kids? I haven't seen these thoughts explored elsewhere and I appreciate them, in concept. However, I found the voice of this book to be mediocre at best, trite at worst. Details that I assume were added to flesh out a scene, but that were not relevant enough or evocative enough to resonate, should have just been edited out. Asides in the thought process that were meant to be revelatory felt obvious or tired. The whole piece could have used a harsh round of workshopping and cut by at least a third. I always feel like a jackass talking this way about what is essentially someone laying bare their very personal thoughts and experiences, but for me, content will never trump style. And style, voice, resonance, were all seriously lacking in this endeavor. An advanced reader copy was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. (Sorry guys.)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lauriann

    This was a fast read for me, and an interesting one. The author recalls a pivotal childhood moment of waving goodbye to her mother from her window. From that point on she suffered issues of abandonment as she longed for her mother to return. As she became an adult, anger and resentment became stronger, but the desire for a connection never left her. Melissa loves her children and expresses concern that there could be something hereditary that will cause her in any way to act as her mother did. G This was a fast read for me, and an interesting one. The author recalls a pivotal childhood moment of waving goodbye to her mother from her window. From that point on she suffered issues of abandonment as she longed for her mother to return. As she became an adult, anger and resentment became stronger, but the desire for a connection never left her. Melissa loves her children and expresses concern that there could be something hereditary that will cause her in any way to act as her mother did. Given all she went through, I'm amazed and impressed at what a good mother she became. As a reader whose mother's love and presence never wavered, this book blessed me with feeling fortunate for all I had and also for all I was able to give to my own. In our family tree there is a situation of maternal abandonment, though in a "softer" context. Maybe that is why I found the subject fascinating. I like when books help us to understand ourselves and those whom we have known. I would have liked a stronger sense of closure at the end, even if it was in the form of the strength of the father in the situation.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Deah

    I was hovering between 3 and 4 stars- I liked the book, trying to decide if I "really" liked it. I decided to go with four because it is really well written. I found I had a hard time identifying with the author due to two decisions she makes. One, to leave her own children and husband on Christmas day to be with her dying mother (okay typing out that sentence it looks horrible but as we all know from the blurb, this is her dying mother who abandoned the entire family when the author was a young I was hovering between 3 and 4 stars- I liked the book, trying to decide if I "really" liked it. I decided to go with four because it is really well written. I found I had a hard time identifying with the author due to two decisions she makes. One, to leave her own children and husband on Christmas day to be with her dying mother (okay typing out that sentence it looks horrible but as we all know from the blurb, this is her dying mother who abandoned the entire family when the author was a young child). Two, at the end where she says "I wouldn't trade my mom for any other in the world" and when her brother tells her "There are no rules to forgiveness". Actually, there are. You have to admit what you did was wrong and ask forgiveness from the people you wronged. I am glad that the author found acceptance. I think you can find acceptance but not forgive. I am still trying to find acceptance in some of the decisions my own mother made, and maybe when I am older, I'll be able to find it, or even forgive. But not yet. My book club is reading this book for this month but I just can't go to that meeting. Obviously I have stuff to work through.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    It took Melissa Cistaro twelve years to write this story, parts of which were extremely painful. Set against the six days she spent at her mother's bedside during her final days, she goes back over their unconventional relationship beginning when her mother abruptly left when Melissa was only three years old, claiming it was "just too much, three children." An event so momentous leaves an imprint, proving even a child so young can retain lifelong memories. Now a mother of three herself, Melissa It took Melissa Cistaro twelve years to write this story, parts of which were extremely painful. Set against the six days she spent at her mother's bedside during her final days, she goes back over their unconventional relationship beginning when her mother abruptly left when Melissa was only three years old, claiming it was "just too much, three children." An event so momentous leaves an imprint, proving even a child so young can retain lifelong memories. Now a mother of three herself, Melissa is a loving and compassionate person who would never think of doing such a thing, holding no residual anger towards her mother with the "desertion gene." She paints a picture of a person who went her own way and did her own thing (a phrase common for that generation in that time), but had the good fortune to have had a husband who, in a reversal of the cliche, raised the kids. He is the hero of this book, although Melissa focusses on her free spirited mother.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I wouldn't trade my mom for any other mom in the world? I couldn't understand that statement after reading how selfishly this woman walked away from 3 children and her husband. Most of the time I felt sorry for the author and didn't understand why she needed to visit her mom at the end of her life. There was no "Im sorry for being a terrible mother and deserting you and your brothers". Sounds like her brothers did not do well. It was well written but very sad. As a daughter of a wonderful Mom of I wouldn't trade my mom for any other mom in the world? I couldn't understand that statement after reading how selfishly this woman walked away from 3 children and her husband. Most of the time I felt sorry for the author and didn't understand why she needed to visit her mom at the end of her life. There was no "Im sorry for being a terrible mother and deserting you and your brothers". Sounds like her brothers did not do well. It was well written but very sad. As a daughter of a wonderful Mom of 8, I was blessed by a woman who loved and cared for us and never checked out because she wasn't being fulfilled. She passed last year and we miss her every day. She was a mom, sadly the author's mom was not.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't nearly as interesting as the blurb made it sound. The author lays bare her damaged relationship with her mother and dealing with her mother's failing health. In the process, the author fixates on her mother's absence and how it impacted her life. Along the way, she seems to over-compensate for the lack her mother by being the "perfect" mother herself. While I'm sure the process of writing this was both cathartic and painful, the result is a pret I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't nearly as interesting as the blurb made it sound. The author lays bare her damaged relationship with her mother and dealing with her mother's failing health. In the process, the author fixates on her mother's absence and how it impacted her life. Along the way, she seems to over-compensate for the lack her mother by being the "perfect" mother herself. While I'm sure the process of writing this was both cathartic and painful, the result is a pretty bland book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Jeffers

    Like a punch in the gut -- this had me in tears by the second page.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cait Ní Cheallaigh

    I'll be processing this one for awhile. I confess I read it because Cistaro is a local author and I think we even have a couple of friends in common, and not because the subject matter was of particular interest to me. It turns out that every reason why I thought it wouldn't matter to me is why this book impacted me so deeply. I didn't, however, break down into tears, which is kind of what I was hoping for, hence the four-star rating versus five. This is is a heartbreaking tale about forgiveness I'll be processing this one for awhile. I confess I read it because Cistaro is a local author and I think we even have a couple of friends in common, and not because the subject matter was of particular interest to me. It turns out that every reason why I thought it wouldn't matter to me is why this book impacted me so deeply. I didn't, however, break down into tears, which is kind of what I was hoping for, hence the four-star rating versus five. This is is a heartbreaking tale about forgiveness and overcoming really crappy odds. It is also beautifully written and the descriptions are so vivid. Typically, I read at bedtime (and fall asleep and forget where I was and have to start over the next night), but this one I'd make time for. I couldn't stop rooting for her. I am so fascinated by and in support of people who thrive, despite having grown up in terrible neglect and abuse. It speaks to the heartiness of the human spirit.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Lomazow

    An absolutely heartbreaking book.Melissa shares with us the sadness of being abandoned by her mother as a child.living her life with this hurt&35 years later sitting at her mothers death bed trying to finally figure out what had occurred .A very brave book that I will not forget.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Very good book about a mother and daughter bond that is very messed up but stays strong.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Really good quick read!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I was initially drawn to this book because I had similar issues in my own childhood (though paternal vs. maternal), and I was hoping this book would live up to the claim of "hard-won wisdom" promised on the book jacket. However, despite such heartbreaking subject matter, this book never really moved me, and I'm having a hard time pin-pointing exactly why that is. The writing is quite good, on many levels, with realistic dialogue and descriptive details that seem to accurately capture each time a I was initially drawn to this book because I had similar issues in my own childhood (though paternal vs. maternal), and I was hoping this book would live up to the claim of "hard-won wisdom" promised on the book jacket. However, despite such heartbreaking subject matter, this book never really moved me, and I'm having a hard time pin-pointing exactly why that is. The writing is quite good, on many levels, with realistic dialogue and descriptive details that seem to accurately capture each time and place. And very early in the book, there is a moment when Cistaro's young daughter just won't go to sleep and I could sympathize fully. She writes, "She doesn't understand that I am goddamn tired" and then discusses all the things that she has to do before she, too, can fall into bed. At that moment, I was getting excited about the book because I thought, here is a book that is going to get real about how demanding, gut-wrenching, and tiring parenting is. However, from that moment on, we see no more of Cistaro's own parenting struggles (though she does briefly mention that she finds her escape through writing). Instead, she seems bent on proving that she is the perfect parent because she doesn't leave her children in the care of others (apparently, she feels that kids being raised by working mothers are somehow being deprived). She also feels she owes it to her husband and kids to be the one who cleans up after them, and she doesn't really mind that the house will be in shambles when she returns from caring for her dying mother. I guess what bothers me most about this book is that I didn't feel there was any point to it, that I gained any insight. Most of the time, Cistaro paints herself as a victim incapable of standing up for herself in any situation and depicts her very normal teenage experiences of experimenting with alcohol and sex as if they were a result of her mother's abandonment. She breezes over the fact that she was lucky enough to be raised by a mostly stable (though flawed, but what parent isn't?) father. She seems to have no awareness of the double standard that society holds for men and women. For example, fathers leave their families all the time without society or their children judging them very harshly. Also, surprisingly absent from this book was much consideration of her mother's extreme youth when being faced with three, very close in age infants/toddlers/young children. There is a bit of reflection on addiction and a tragedy that befell her mom early in life, but again, most of us have dealt with tragedy and addiction in our lives or families, and no real insight or depth of understanding is developed here. As the book comes to a close, we see Cistaro impatiently waiting for her mother to die so she can get back to continuing her quest to be the perfect mother. The epilogue provides a twist that is meant to portray a postmortem reconciliation of sorts with her mother, but to me, it seems forced. I am disappointed because I see no "hard-won wisdom" about relationships, parenting, or forgiveness, no maturing of Cistaro's perspective as the book progresses. This books simply appears to be the author's attempt to make the world see her as a Victim, who, despite it all, turned out to be a great mom.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stories Unfolded (aka Danielle Olson)

    This book really hit home for me. Both Melissa and I had a mother that we didn't really understand. We didn't understand the decisions they made and why they continued doing what they did seeing how it effected their children. While my mother never left us like Melissa's did, I feel that she left us mentally. I felt a lot of what she was feeling growing up. She asked why her mother wouldn't stay while I've asked why my mother couldn't stop taking her pills. It was clear that Melissa kept her feel This book really hit home for me. Both Melissa and I had a mother that we didn't really understand. We didn't understand the decisions they made and why they continued doing what they did seeing how it effected their children. While my mother never left us like Melissa's did, I feel that she left us mentally. I felt a lot of what she was feeling growing up. She asked why her mother wouldn't stay while I've asked why my mother couldn't stop taking her pills. It was clear that Melissa kept her feelings bottled up...just like I tend to do. She had so much anger towards her mother, but didn't want to tell her fearing that her mother would run away again. I felt that in this paragraph: "What good would it do m to unravel the anger inside me? I might hurl this heavy ceramic coffee cup across the table. I might stand up and tell her she sucks at being a mom. But that isn't me. I'll need to take her as she is right here, right now - fragrant, strip-searched, and full of mystery." There was a line in the book that also reminded me of my siblings. "We line up, three across, and stand over the grate with our legs apart until it gets too hot and the metal edge starts to burn the bottoms of our feet." I laughed when I read this because that's exactly what my siblings and I did when we'd get ready for school. We'd fight over it just like Melissa did with her brothers. Pieces of My Mother is about learning to forgive even when you don't fully understand the decisions that were made. It's also about learning to forgive yourself in the process and know that the decisions people make are their own. I would highly recommend this book for those of you that love a good memoir. My full review is up on my blog at Danielleelisemiller.wordpress.com

  20. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    Oh my, where to start. Anyone can tell from reading the summary of this book that it is going to be heart-wrenching. I am lucky in that I can't personally relate to Cistaro's story, yet I was still deeply affected by this book. I can only imagine how someone who can relate to Cistaro's story would experience this. I enjoyed Cistaro's writing quite a bit and she wasn't afraid to go all in. I suspect it can be hard to articulate the feelings that Cistaro had to go through in her life and I applaud Oh my, where to start. Anyone can tell from reading the summary of this book that it is going to be heart-wrenching. I am lucky in that I can't personally relate to Cistaro's story, yet I was still deeply affected by this book. I can only imagine how someone who can relate to Cistaro's story would experience this. I enjoyed Cistaro's writing quite a bit and she wasn't afraid to go all in. I suspect it can be hard to articulate the feelings that Cistaro had to go through in her life and I applaud her for that. In fact, this book reminds me of another well-known memoir of a woman coming to terms with her mother's death and I think readers of that novel (you know what book I'm talking about!) may be interested in this book. I will admit, though, that I did have some problems with the pacing of this book I felt that Cistaro did a fabulous job of digging deep and explaining her feelings, but I also felt that most of this book was stuck in neutral. I never felt that Cistaro was getting closer to making peace with her feelings about her mother until, well, she had made peace. I wish that there had been more of a forward-motion in the narrative throughout the book. Would I recommend this book to others? Yes, although not universally. I don't think this is a book for just anyone and a reader needs to be in a certain "head space" for it. But, for some, this is an excellent memoir. I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christine Zibas

    This is a powerful book on so many levels. Perhaps the biggest question that underlies the entire book is one that can never be answered: How could a mother abandon her three young children? Why would she do that? While the story would be an interesting one, were it fiction, it's even more compelling because this is nonfiction, a memoir. What was it like for a four-year-old Melissa Cistaro to be abandoned by her mother? She brings you to the very moment it happened. People think children forget, This is a powerful book on so many levels. Perhaps the biggest question that underlies the entire book is one that can never be answered: How could a mother abandon her three young children? Why would she do that? While the story would be an interesting one, were it fiction, it's even more compelling because this is nonfiction, a memoir. What was it like for a four-year-old Melissa Cistaro to be abandoned by her mother? She brings you to the very moment it happened. People think children forget, but Melissa never did, and considering how many of us are haunted by things that happened in our childhood (even as adults), this is a powerful example of why raising children is so important. The memoir's power comes in part from exposing just what impact this event had on a family. While her mother would make an appearance from time to time, it was her absence that had the most profound influence, the waiting and wondering when her children would see her again. Can an absence be stronger than a presence? In this case, it certainly seems so. A lot of the insight the author was able to gain from her mother came when she found letters her mother had written (but never sent). These were discovered by the author when her mother was ill. In the end, the greatest gift the author is given is the knowledge that she will not repeat the mistakes of her mother, that she can be strong enough to choose a different path.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lissa

    Memoirs about missing parents seems to be a mainstay in the genre and while I normally find them sort of melodramatic, I found this book moving, beautifully written and at times very profound. The author's free-spirited and alcoholic mother decided that she just couldn't raise her three young children and left them when the author was just four years old. Now as a mother herself, the author looks back at the reasons her mother left while trying to determine if she could repeat the act herself. A Memoirs about missing parents seems to be a mainstay in the genre and while I normally find them sort of melodramatic, I found this book moving, beautifully written and at times very profound. The author's free-spirited and alcoholic mother decided that she just couldn't raise her three young children and left them when the author was just four years old. Now as a mother herself, the author looks back at the reasons her mother left while trying to determine if she could repeat the act herself. As a mother, I found many really true statements in this book about the wish that all mother's have at some point to just leave for a while. And while most mother's have this thought and realize that they couldn't even imagine actually leaving their children, the author's mother did just that. It was heartbreaking but in a way that I didn't find overwrought. This is a book that I could see myself re-reading certain passages of in the future, which is not a statement that I normally make about memoirs. I received this an EGalley of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest rating.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Siobhán

    Giving it three stars for being a good book, but holding back two stars for the epilogue trying to be a lesson in forgiveness, I absolutely hate it when someone does that; you are never obligated to forgive those who chose to bring you into the world then didn't follow up because they'd rather be having fun or finding themselves. I also don't buy that the letters in question were intended to remain secret, if Ms. Mother of the Year wanted them secret (written, never sent, then tucked into a cabi Giving it three stars for being a good book, but holding back two stars for the epilogue trying to be a lesson in forgiveness, I absolutely hate it when someone does that; you are never obligated to forgive those who chose to bring you into the world then didn't follow up because they'd rather be having fun or finding themselves. I also don't buy that the letters in question were intended to remain secret, if Ms. Mother of the Year wanted them secret (written, never sent, then tucked into a cabinet nearby as she was near the end of life), then she would have shredded or otherwise discarded them. I tend to suspect they were meant to be found as a final "it wasn't my fault."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    3 and 1/2 stars. A tough read. Very honest and heart wrenching.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies

    Good book. A little whiny but I liked it. My brain is shot and is all baby mush so I can't put together a review. Or a proper outfit. Or anything. So I'll just continue my hermit status. Good book. A little whiny but I liked it. My brain is shot and is all baby mush so I can't put together a review. Or a proper outfit. Or anything. So I'll just continue my hermit status.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    A truly touching story that is absolutely sincere and thought provoking. Highly recommended. I looked forward to reading it at the end of the day. Beautiful use of language and storyline.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kellie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Smoothly transitions from past to present narrative as well as weaving in letters from her mother. A story well told without an overdramatic "ah-ha!" ending. Smoothly transitions from past to present narrative as well as weaving in letters from her mother. A story well told without an overdramatic "ah-ha!" ending.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Heather Moore

    AMAZING. I just loved this book. Exquisitely written.

  29. 4 out of 5

    SundayAtDusk

    There's no shortage of contemporary memoirs about mothers, particularly mothers who did not excel in mothering. Melissa Cistaro has added a new one to the list, and it is definitely a worthwhile one to read. When Ms. Cistaro was three, her mother packed up all her stuff in her car one day and drove away, leaving the author and her two brothers to be raised by their father. She still saw her mother at times throughout her childhood, but those visits weren't particularly productive and her mother There's no shortage of contemporary memoirs about mothers, particularly mothers who did not excel in mothering. Melissa Cistaro has added a new one to the list, and it is definitely a worthwhile one to read. When Ms. Cistaro was three, her mother packed up all her stuff in her car one day and drove away, leaving the author and her two brothers to be raised by their father. She still saw her mother at times throughout her childhood, but those visits weren't particularly productive and her mother always left again. The story not only concentrates on those mostly motherless childhood years, but also on the trip the author made when she was in her late 30s to see her dying mother one last time. Ms. Cistaro does an excellent job going back and forth between the two time periods, too; there is no confusion about what's going on or when something happened. During that final visit, the author discovers letters her mother wrote to her children and others, but never mailed. She reads some of those letters while she's at her mother's home, and then takes them home with her when she returns to her husband and two children. The author appears to see those letters as being insightful and loving. My views on them are far less generous. I'm afraid I don't see it as being any great loss that her mother never mailed them. In fact, I thought at least she had the decency not to mail her narcissistic letters, filled with all her claims of care and concern! Talk is cheap and the letters were nothing but talk. Ironically, I thought the most nauseating one was the one Ms. Cistaro thought for sure proved her mother's love and interest in her life--the one where she asks her daughter to tell her about any "special fellows". All I could do while reading that letter was picture a young, naive teenage girl with a nasty boy at a dance, or a not much older teenager girl walking quickly down a deserted road at night, trying to get away from a creepy guy wanting to give her a ride. It's impossible not to imagine her mother kept all those letters she wrote for no other reason than she was impressed by her own "eloquent" writing. The author's views of her mother's writings are indeed very generous. In one way that is refreshing since there has been so much mommy bashing going on in today's memoirs. But is she being too generous? It's her mother and her choice. Moreover, where she mentally ends up at the end of the book is basically where everyone should end up when it comes to parents--you get who you get and it's your job to make sense of it all, as well as to realize you are responsible for your own life. Contrary to what self-righteous people like to believe, an apple can fall very far from the tree. When Melissa Cistaro realized that one miserable night as a teenager, she began to acquire the personal strength that she lacked due to her negligent, absent mother. Strength no one could take away from her because it wasn't given to her, but was so hard earned. (Note: I received a free ARC of this book both from NetGalley and Amazon Vine.)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Dutkiewicz

    Little Melissa was only three, with two older brothers, when her mother decided to leave them with their father and only drop in sporadically, frequently missing birthdays and holidays and rather consistently leaving in the middle of the night even when she was present. I really appreciated Melissa Cistaro's honesty in this memoir, and I enjoyed her flashbacks to her childhood. The stories and times with her brothers were endearing and playful, and as they all grew older, upsetting because of the Little Melissa was only three, with two older brothers, when her mother decided to leave them with their father and only drop in sporadically, frequently missing birthdays and holidays and rather consistently leaving in the middle of the night even when she was present. I really appreciated Melissa Cistaro's honesty in this memoir, and I enjoyed her flashbacks to her childhood. The stories and times with her brothers were endearing and playful, and as they all grew older, upsetting because of their struggles to stay on positive paths. I understand what Cistaro was going for with her memoir, but it missed a beat with me because I'm not sure I could bring myself to accept all the pieces of her mother. On a happy note, I loved how Cistaro is now a mother of her own three children. And not leaving anytime soon.

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