THE COMMON THREAD: Mothers, Daughters, and the Power of Empathy

Martha Manning, Foreword by . Morrow $25.95 (368p) ISBN 0-380-97719-2

For women whose automatic response to the word "mother" is a groan followed by a sigh, clinical psychologist Manning (All Seasons Pass: Grieving a Miscarriage) offers a new view on a relationship that begins at conception and can continue long after the other's death. Manning argues persuasively that empathy is the thread that links mothers and daughters from pregnancy and childbirth through adolescence, young adulthood, midlife and beyond. By walking in the other's shoes—whether they're baby booties, size 6 Air Jordans or spike heels—mother and daughter can learn to match the way the other feels. "Human beings aren't born empathic," notes Manning. "If we were, we'd sleep through the night and not make such dreadful messes in our diapers." But empathy alone is not enough. Using the example of a woman who soothingly rocks a hungry baby but does not feed it, Manning insists that empathy requires action. To underscore her ideas, Manning offers selections from a wide range of writings, from the Talmud to pieces by Barbara Kingsolver, Dorothy Allison and Erica Jong. She advises mothers of teen girls to adopt a new mantra—"I can't win"—that will change as both grow older, and shows how years later time and culture can create new misunderstandings between older daughters and their elderly moms. Tales of her own struggles raising her daughter, the indignities of aging (she admits to occasionally wearing Depends) and her relationship with her mother personalize her message about empathy as a bridge across generations. Agent, Arielle Eckstut. (Apr.)

Forecast:Making readers aware of this book's touching foreword by Rosie O'Donnell and frequent references to popular women's literature could help it break out of the women's studies genre and into mainstream parenting.

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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