Thanks Again Ruth Reichl

I am a huge Ruth Reichl fan. I’ve read all of her books – multiple times. I buy them for gifts, because they are. Often when I’m at the bookstore, I flip open Gourmet magazine just to read her “Letter from the Editor.” Everything she writes is richly human and delicious. You don’t have to love cooking to love Ruth Reichl.

Yesterday I slipped away to the library leaving my husband in charge. Determined to take my time browsing, I was startled to see she has new book out: “Not Becoming My Mother.” It’s a tribute to her mother, Miriam, and if you’ve read any of her memoirs, you’d know it was a complicated relationship. I left the library in a whirl, forgoing sacred alone time in order to get home and read. I barely had my coat off before I got started.

It’s a short book. You can practically read it cover-to-cover while your kids are in the bathtub. It chronicles Ruth’s discovery of Miriam’s latent ache to live an independent life. She was supposed to want the 1950’s aspirations of marriage, motherhood, keeping house — and Miriam torments herself (and everyone else) by trying.

It wasn’t until after her husband died and her children moved out, that she begins to live according to own desires. She surrounds herself with art, music and friends. She travels. She stops caring what other people think. At eighty years old, she is finally happy – a startlingly lesson that it’s never too late.

I loved the book because it’s another reminder of the misery you take on when you try too hard to want the same things everyone else wants, when in fact you really don’t. Even as a grown woman and mother, I’m surprised at how often I torture myself this way.

Without being aware of it, I can berate myself for not embracing the same activities and social strategies of a lot of of other stay-at-home moms. I know I’m not interested in say, the PTA, but so often I get caught up in the muckedy-muck end up whining that I don’t fit in. The PTA is a great organization (thank God for those women), but it’s just not my thing. When my kids go to school, I go to the bookstore. It might seem selfish, but for me it’s survival.

I’m going keep a copy of the book by my laptop so that every morning when I log on, I’ll remember Ruth’s mom and get over myself. Eighty could be here before I know it.


P.S. If you haven’t read Ruth Reichl and are curious. Read “Tender at The Bone”. I promise, you’ll be love it.

2 thoughts on “Thanks Again Ruth Reichl

  1. I like Reichl’s stories, but something about her writing makes me a little nuts. I think I have that problem with a lot of food writers. Don’t spend three pages talking about the sandwich. Just eat the damn sandwich! But I’ve read all her books (except this latest one), so I must like them on some level.

    It can be hard to break out of that mold of what we think we are “supposed” to be. A good reminder of it for me was Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,”* in which, during her time on the ashram, she tries to become serious, solemn, and introspective and fails. Then she realizes that if god had wanted her to be that way, he would have made her that way. Instead, he made her bubbly and chatty and outgoing. So she decides to work with that instead. That was an eyeopener for me, as I struggle with accepting my slightly closed personality.

    *I think this book was unfairly overblown, by the way. Will it change your life? No. It is an interesting memoir? Yes. Face value, people. Face value.

    Maybe this is why I need to lose 10 lbs. I can read endlessly about sandwiches because I am obsessed with food and eating. Food writing is my second favorite genre after memoirs – perhaps that’s why I enjoy RR so well. Oink.

    So funny, I just re-red “Eat, Pray Love” two weeks ago. With my fibromyalgia, I’ve been trying (and failing) to meditate. I thought if I re-read the India section, I could get inspired. So the passage you are referring to is very familiar (and I agree with you – good book, but the fuss got really annoying and I started to dislike the book long after I read it).

    Women: we’re so hard on ourselves and each other. On my good days, I like to believe I’m just “socially authentic.” On my bad days, I think I’m just socially retarded. I thought by my 40’s I would outgrow self-doubt.
    P.S. I picked up “The Memory of Running” and it’s on my nightstand. I’ll let you know, but I am looking forward to it. Right now I am reading A.M. Homes. Have you ever read her books?

    P.P.S. I feel a little guilty poaching off your blogroll – but I did see on that other blog that you have a novel in a drawer. Please take it out. You are an incredible writer. Do it.

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