In this deeply etched and haunting memoir, Vivian Gornick tells the story of her lifelong battle with her mother for independence. There have been numerous books about mother and daughter, but none has dealt with this closest of filial relations as directly or as ruthlessly. Gornick's groundbreaking book confronts what Edna O'Brien has called "the prinicpal crux of female despair": the unacknowledged Oedipal nature of the mother-daughter bond.
Born and raised in the Bronx, the daughter of "urban peasants," Gornick grows up in a household dominated by her intelligent but uneducated mother's romantic depression over the early death of her husband. Next door lives Nettie, an attractive widow whose calculating sensuality appeals greatly to Vivian. These women with their opposing models of femininity continue, well into adulthood, to affect Gornick's struggle to find herself in love and in work.
As Gornick walks with her aged mother through the streets of New York, arguing and remembering the past, each wins the reader's admiration: the caustic and clear-thinking daughter, for her courage and tenacity in really talking to her mother about the most basic issues of their lives, and the still powerful and intuitively-wise old woman, who again and again proves herself her daughter's mother.
Unsparing, deeply courageous, Fierce Attachments is one of the most remarkable documents of family feeling that has been written, a classic that helped start the memoir boom and remains one of the most moving examples of the genre.
Rarely is the barbed edge of mother love described with such scorching wit and raw emotion as it is in Vivian Gornick's reissued memoir. Fierce Attachments zigzags between a Bronx tenement teeming with immigrants in the 1940s and New York in the 1980s. It chronicles an almighty struggle between the author and her mother, a stubborn rabble-rouser bursting with tart, angry pronouncements, moxie, and an undeniable measure of charm. Waving away an "Eastern religionist" trying to sell her on his god, she raps out: "Young man, I am a Jew and a socialist. I think that's more than enough for one lifetime, don't you?" Her husband's untimely death is the occasion for such wild histrionics--screaming, refusing to walk, flinging herself into the grave--that when Gornick works the Middle East years later as a journalist, the ululating cries and fainting mourners at funerals seem comfortably familiar. The rapid-fire flow of confidences and furious arguments between the duo mellow slightly, believably, as they grow older together.