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Things I Wish I Told My Mother


Things I Wish I Told My Mother

Prompted by the deaths of their own mothers in the same year, when both were in their 90s, Susan Patterson and Susan DiLallo have teamed up on a novel about the rich and complex relationships between mothers and daughters. This unforgettable story also makes the case for repairing those relationships before it’s too late.

Thirty-something Laurie Margolis is an ad executive who is about to launch the most exciting chapter of her career. She has helped land an account with an up-and-coming cosmetics company, and she is sure that she will be named creative director for the project. But that is before her incredibly demanding mother, Liz Ormson, suffers chest pain and insists that Laurie drop everything and pick her up from the hospital where she has been admitted.

"Mothers and daughters who read this book independently will almost certainly be inspired to pick up the phone and reconnect with one another afterwards."

Fulfilling the old adage that doctors make the worst patients, Liz, a pioneering OB/GYN, doesn’t want to stay in the hospital one minute longer than necessary. Laurie, who sometimes has had a bit of a prickly relationship with her mother, softens somewhat when she sees Liz so vulnerable and decides on a whim to accompany her mother --- who has always loved to travel --- on a trip to Liz’s home country of Norway, with a lengthy stay in Paris en route.

Laurie is of two minds about the trip. For one thing, she has that big account to manage. Maybe she can gain inspiration from the impossibly chic Parisian women. For another, she hasn’t really been back to Paris since her honeymoon from her disastrous marriage. Liz, who adored Laurie’s ex, seems to pin their divorce on her daughter as a personal failure --- along with Laurie’s disappointing fashion sense and body type.

But on one of their first nights in Paris, Laurie develops an intense connection to a man she meets at a hotel bar, and she imagines that maybe romance is not entirely dead --- even if her mother warns her against making a mistake. Laurie also begins to see Liz in a new light, especially once the two of them start to open up to one another as mature women. They don’t just assume the old patterns of behavior that, for as long as Laurie can remember, have dictated the dynamics of their relationship. There are bumps in the road on this journey --- Laurie is stunned, for example, by the extent to which Liz resents her surprise attempts to reconnect with Liz’s Norwegian relatives --- but this two-week trip abroad seems to be repairing old rifts at last.

Readers who pick up THINGS I WISH I TOLD MY MOTHER may be, for the majority of the novel, somewhat perplexed by the meaning of its title, though they will be distracted by the appealing descriptions of Paris’s tourist attractions, fashions and, of course, food. An 11th-hour plot twist seems jarring at first, but leave it to bestselling author James Patterson (who collaborated with his wife and DiLallo on this novel) to open the emotional floodgates right when it counts.

Mothers and daughters who read this book independently will almost certainly be inspired to pick up the phone and reconnect with one another afterwards. So perhaps the best idea is to read and discuss it together, building a stronger relationship through the pages of a book.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 11, 2023

Things I Wish I Told My Mother
by Susan Patterson and Susan DiLallo, with James Patterson

  • Publication Date: April 2, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538710935
  • ISBN-13: 9781538710937