There are few mother-daughter
relationships that bask in the warm glow of being perfect; however,
there are also few that are fraught with differences so severe that
a child feels she can do nothing that will please the adult. "My Mom
and Other Mysteries of the Universe" is a story about the latter
type of relationship… with an amazing twist.
Arlie is a rather normal 11-year-old
girl with one younger brother in a two-parent household. (That
premise alone sets this story apart from others of its genre these
days.) Arlie even likes her younger brother, Michael, even if
there seems to be a marked preference by her mother. Arlie's
perfectionist mother is a working parent who seems to be a candidate
for "Super Mom of the Year." Arlie's father, a musician, has a more
So what would possess this mother to
announce that she and her husband will be going on the road with the
band for a month while her children are left in the care of her
younger sister, Isabelle?
Arlie is excited about the prospect
of spending an entire month at Isabelle's apartment because Isabelle
is not at all like her mother. Isabelle wears long flowery skirts
with sneakers and jangling earrings that get caught in her long,
curly red hair. Isabelle never says "should" like Arlie's mom and
actually talks to her about things that matter instead of hounding
her about all the things she does wrong.
Then two more events occur on the
same day that turn Arlie's normal life upside down. Her parents are
in a serious car accident, with her mother ending up in a coma, and
a new girl arrives at school who reminds Arlie an awful lot of her
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As the month progresses, with
Arlie's mother continuing in the coma, Arlie must come to terms with
her feelings for the new girl who shares so many of her mother's
characteristics. Arlie is torn between wanting to please the
newcomer and the thought that she really does not like her very much
at all. Arlie's fears concerning many issues must be faced.
Throughout the days that follow, Arlie learns a great deal about
herself and about her relationship with her mother.
The dialogue of this novel is
believable, the characters are well-developed, and the plot moves at
a good pace. While a quick and easy read, this book does not have
the pat "happy ever after" ending where Arlie and her mother "fix"
their relationship, becoming the best of friends from then on out.
The story remains real to the last sentence of the last paragraph,
which the reader will find much more satisfying! It gives us no
answers but leaves us feeling comforted in our humanness.
Willner-Parso weaves a solid story
about young girls, school, friendships, strength, relationships and
love. Isabelle puts it best, I believe, when she tells Arlie, "You
have friends, and you have family. Friends are special
because you get to pick them. … And no matter how infuriating the
people in your family are, somehow, no matter what, you always love
them." Isn't that the truth?
To check out this book and others
about mothers and daughters, visit us at 725 Pekin St.
[Louella Moreland, youth