My Mother Once Told Me...

Non-Fiction - Memoir
264 Pages
Reviewed on 01/27/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

“After she died, a friend said, “Phoebe could always make something out of nothing. Phoebe spent most of her life making something out of nothing but always with a great big laugh.” That’s a powerful statement alluding to the pioneer resilience to work hard, love hard and laugh hard, all while eking out a meager living. It’s also a significant inheritance for those who are here today – how well do we aspire to the survival instincts and the simple pleasures of life like our ancestors? We are a result of who our parents were, of our grandparents, and all other family members who came and went in our lives. Telling stories about our ancestors is making our own lives really come alive.

Carol A. Schauer’s memoir, My Mother Once Told Me…, is a collection of stories of three generations of women: the author, her mother, and her grandmother, as well as stories of other women connected to the family. The author has inherited so much from both her mother and grandmother, but perhaps the most poignant and powerful gift she received was from her mother: the gift of writing, of telling a good story. Carol admits that she was always one to chatter; she had what is often described as ‘the gift of the gab.’ In fact, her report cards frequently said, “Talks too much to her neighbors.” None of the women became famous, though Carol’s mother was a writer and a reporter for the local newspaper. But their stories are significant in their revelations of how each and every one of us is tied to our roots, whatever they might be, and we benefit from and embrace what we learn from those who went before us. Carol’s stories are compassionate, generous, sometimes funny, often sad – indeed all the human emotions possible. The message is clear, even if the characters aren’t famous: we have to live our lives to the fullest, no matter what fate deals out and we must learn from both our past and the past of our ancestors to become the best person we can be. Like my mother always said, “Life is hard work,” but, as Carol’s mother and grandmother proved, it was hard work that made it worth living. Beautifully told.

Edith Wairimu

My Mother Once Told Me... by Carol A Schauer explores the intricate and endearing relationships between three generations of women. Like an indelible mark, the lessons that each woman learns from their mother remain sometimes by deliberate effort but many times subconsciously. The biography/memoir follows the lives of three women: Fannie Phoebe, Barbara June, and Schauer. Fannie was born fifth of eleven children, in 1888. Their family lived in Colorado. Though constrained by the challenges placed upon women of her era, she was tenacious and industrious, becoming the breadwinner of her family and also supporting her children emotionally. Like her mother, June grew up to be strong and determined not to be held back by the limitations she faced. Schauer looks back at her life and examines the influence her grandmother had on her daughter and her relationship with her mother.

When reviewing her mother's and grandmother’s actions and character, Carol A Schauer writes with a consciousness of the societal restrictions they lived in. She looks beyond their imperfections and sees the intentions of their words and actions. The women express love and kindness in their own way. Though June did not openly express her concern and was sometimes stern, her letters, journals, and prayers show deep, unrelenting concern for Schauer and her other children. As the memoir moves from the life and character of one woman to the next, the similarities between their perspectives and lives are evident. The work is organized into sections that discuss specific topics and its writing is concise and consistent. My Mother Once Told Me... by Carol A Schauer is an enlightening memoir and an invaluable read for daughters and mothers as it explores the influence mothers have on their daughters from one generation to the next.

Tammy Ruggles

My Mother Once Told Me... by Carol A. Schauer is a moving and powerful memoir about women and the influence they have on one another. It's about generations of women--daughters, mothers, grandmothers, relatives, friends--tied by blood or emotion or experience. It's about gifts received, given, and shared, and it's about parental relationships and how they shape who we are. If you love stories about women of all stripes and flavors--strong, vulnerable, resilient, resourceful, and everything in between--treat yourself to Schauer's revelatory memoir. We don't choose our mothers and our heritage, but as this book shows, we are part of them and they are part of us, regardless.

You will enjoy the honesty, the insights, and the emotions that this author draws from you. Whether the relationships with your mother, grandmother, and other women in your life are good, bad, indifferent, or something of all of these, the author's perspectives will lead you to think about how your life was molded by them. I enjoy how Schauer brings out the little things in mother/daughter relationships, as well as the major ones, from memories of making a pie to realizing that your mother won't always be around. The writing is clear and insightful, full of rich detail, poignant in some places, funny in others. I like the balance in the writing, how she shares the negatives as well as the positives, which allows and invites readers to acknowledge the same in their own lives. I appreciate the way Schauer compares herself to the women in her life--how she is like them; how she is different. If you are into genealogy or trying to find connections in your family roots, My Mother Once Told Me... by Carol A. Schauer is a must-read.

Grace Masso

In her memoir, My Mother Once Told Me... Carol A Schauer gives substance to Dr. Phil’s saying that “The greatest role model in a child’s life is the same-sex parent.” She writes about three women, including herself, and shows how mother-daughter relationships become important in the defining moments in a woman’s life. In this memoir, readers encounter a mother, a daughter, and a daughter’s daughter — Fannie Waterbury born in 1888, Barbara June Ashworth (the author’s mother, born in 1927), and Carol, born in 1955. In this spellbinding narrative, the author shows how the words spoken by mothers to their daughters shape the daughters and prepare them for life.

Each of the people in this book has unique circumstances, each is born in a different time, and each is faced with different kinds of challenges, but as one reads through the book, one discovers a common denominator that ushers stability into the lives of these daughters—the wisdom contained in the words from their mother. The memoir is well-crafted and Carol A Schauer combines her gift for descriptive prose with her observant style of writing to pull the reader deeply into the story. It is filled with wisdom and insights and as I read, I found myself mulling over my relationship with my mother and how much she has given me. My Mother Once Told Me... is the story of three generations of strong women, littered with humorous passages, exploring their grit, their resilience, and the wisdom that accompanied them in challenging moments. I loved the way Carol A Schauer writes about the womanhood of these women, including hers, and how simply she lets her message come across to readers. This is a book that is both entertaining and inspiring, and one that women should read and share.