Mother Daughter Me (Hafner)

Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir
Katie Hafner, 2013
Random House
288 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781400069361

The complex, deeply binding relationship between mothers and daughters is brought vividly to life in Katie Hafner’s remarkable memoir, an exploration of the year she and her mother, Helen, spent working through, and triumphing over, a lifetime of unresolved emotions.
Dreaming of a “year in Provence” with her mother, Katie urges Helen to move to San Francisco to live with her and Zoe, Katie’s teenage daughter. Katie and Zoe had become a mother-daughter team, strong enough, Katie thought, to absorb the arrival of a seventy-seven-year-old woman set in her ways.
Filled with fairy-tale hope that she and her mother would become friends, and that Helen would grow close to her exceptional granddaughter, Katie embarked on an experiment in intergenerational living that she would soon discover was filled with land mines: memories of her parents’ painful divorce, of her mother’s drinking, of dislocating moves back and forth across the country, and of Katie’s own widowhood and bumpy recovery. Helen, for her part, was also holding difficult issues at bay.
How these three women from such different generations learn to navigate their challenging, turbulent, and ultimately healing journey together makes for riveting reading. By turns heartbreaking and funny—and always insightful—Katie Hafner’s brave and loving book answers questions about the universal truths of family that are central to the lives of so many. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Katie Hafner is an American journalist who writes books and articles about technology and society. She writes for the New York Times on technology and healthcare, and was a contributing editor for Newsweek. She has worked at Business Week, and has written for Esquire, Wired, New Republic and New York Times Magazine. She was born in Rochester, New York.

Her sixth book, Mother Daughter Me, a memoir about three generations of women trying to live together was published in 2013 to solid praise. It was named one of "Ten Titles to Pick Up Now" in O Magazine and made Parade Magazine's 2013 Summer Reading List, July's Goodreads "Mover and Shaker" list, and iTunes' "Best Books of July."


  • Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier (with John Markoff) (1991)
  • The House at the Bridge: A Story of Modern Germany (1995) 
  • Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet (with Matthew Lyon) (1996)
  • The Well: A Story of Love, Death and Real Life in the Seminal Online Community (2001)
  •  A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano (2008)
  •  Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir (2013)

Along with her other literary credits, Hafner's 2006 New York Times article "Growing Wikipedia Refines its 'Anyone Can Edit' Policy" is currently featured in The McGraw-Hill Guide Writing for College, Writing for Life, second edition an English composition textbook. It is used by hundreds of undergrads as source material for topical essays. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 7/17/2013.)

Book Reviews
In a curiously optimistic but ultimately doomed experiment in communal living, journalist and author Hafner (The Well) invites her 77-year-old mother, Helen, to share the household she and her teenage daughter.... Their year of living together elicits enormous spiritual growth, though not necessarily the way they envision. Sadly, the narrative is tedious, but some well-intentioned familial reckoning emerges.
Publishers Weekly

Hafner writes with compassion and wit about the often uneasy alliance between mothers and daughters and the surprising ways in which relationships can be redeemed even late in life.

Hafner agreed [to rent] a house in San Francisco where all three women could cohabitate. It was only when they all came together under one roof that she realized she had totally misjudged the situation. In a narrative that skillfully moves between her present predicament and her difficult childhood, Hafner offers a compelling portrait of her remarkable mother and their troubled relationship.... Heartbreakingly honest, yet not without hope and flashes of wry humor.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also, consider these broad talking points to help start a discussion for Mother Daughter Me:

1. Discuss the personalities of each of the three women—Katie, Helen and Zoe. How would you describe each of them? Do you find one more sympathetic than the others? More at fault? Were you shocked, for instance, by Zoe's rudeness...or Helen's need to control?

2. Trace the roots of the tension and anger among the three women. Consider Katie's childhood in particular. Was the disarray in the household inevitable given the family histories? Are there any parallels in your own life, past or present? To what extent are we all shaped by our past?

3. What does Hafner come to learn by the end of the memoir? What deeper understanding has she gained? What have they all come to realize?

(Questions by LitLovers. We'll add specific ones if and when they're made available by the publisher.)

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