In a burst of optimism, Katie Hafner proposed a new living arrrangement to her octogenarian mother, Helen, and 15-year-old daughter: the three generations could share a house. Six months into their cohabitation, the experiment was declared a failure. Mother Daughter Me recounts the family history that doomed the setup as well as charting the highs and lows of their time under the same roof.
Hafner's childhood was colored by her parents' divorce and by Helen's subsequent binge drinking and neglect, but the two had achieved détente. By the time Helen needed to downsize, Hafner had been widowed eight years and enjoyed a close relationship with her teenage daughter, Zoe. The three agreed that opening Katie and Zoe's San Francisco home to Helen would offer them a chance to become a loving extended family.
While Hafner (The Well, A Romance on Three Legs) does not resort to the cliché "sandwich generation," she does describe times when she was literally between Zoe and Helen--and while Zoe is kind and bright, and Helen beautiful and brilliant, both lay emotional claim to Hafner. She cites research on alcoholism and the effects of divorce on children, and recollects scenes from her parents' and grandparents' marriages that led to emotional damage for both Helen and Katie.
It's not all frustration, though, as the three find love, humor and renewed understanding of their family dynamic. It's a credit to them all that, without self-pity, Hafner shares their story of three generations that tried, but failed, to find peace under one roof. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco