Literary Fiction Short Stories

Everything My Mother Taught Me – Alice Hoffman

19 January 2020
Everything My Mother Taught Me Book Cover Everything My Mother Taught Me
Inheritance Collection
Alice Hoffman
Amazon Original Stories
19 December 2019

In this haunting short story of loyalty and betrayal, a young woman in early 1900s Massachusetts discovers that in navigating her treacherous coming-of-age, she must find her voice first. For fatefully observant Adeline, growing up carries an ominous warning from her adulterous mother: don’t say a word. Adeline vows to never speak again. But that’s not her only secret. After her mother takes a housekeeping job at a lighthouse off the tip of Cape Ann, a local woman vanishes. The key to the mystery lies with Adeline, the silent witness. New York Times bestselling author of The Rules of Magic Alice Hoffman crafts a beautiful, heart-wrenching short story. Alice Hoffman’s Everything My Mother Taught Me is part of Inheritance, a collection of five stories about secrets, unspoken desires, and dangerous revelations between loved ones. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single setting. By yourself, behind closed doors, or shared with someone you trust.


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.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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