Everything My Mother Taught Me is a poignant story of a mother’s relationship with her daughter, husband, and neighbours. Some women should never be married, some women should never have children, meet Nora Ivie, mother to Adeline. Only a mother that is so narcissistic and devoid of caring for her daughter, can leave so little love and personal development with her child.
While Nora openly cheated on Adeline’s father, he remained devoted to his family, until he died when Adeline was twelve. Suddenly as a widow with a child, the male interests subside, “… after all, they had wives of their own.” Adeline decides in response to a remark from her mother and in memory of her late father, to stop speaking.
Adeline and her mother move to a small group of families responsible for the upkeep of two lighthouses on Thacher Island, of Cape Ann. It isn’t too long before Nora has adulterous plans for one of the other married men, and they record in a notebook their amusement at how feckless and unattractive the deceived wife Julie is. Meanwhile, Julie becomes much more maternal towards Adeline and they develop a close bond. Alice Hoffman does a superb job creating the silent witness in Adeline, a young girl who is acutely observant and now driven to feel more obligated to someone other than her mother. The characters I didn’t feel fully formed but there is enough to feel the emotional impact of neglect, deceit and loss.
At the outset I considered the title and wondered how a title of such scope could be validated in a short story, but therein lies the moral of the story. What if everything you learnt from your mother was so negligible other than the person demonstrated how much you wished to be different. As part of the Inheritance series, it is fascinating how traits or personalities are either impulsively followed or are moulded in a reaction to reprehensible behaviours.
I would recommend reading this book and it is a good addition to the Inheritance Collection from Amazon Original Stories.