Picks and Pans Review: Linked Lives

updated 06/23/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/23/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Lucy Rose Fischer

In a quiet, academic way, this book about the relationships between mothers and daughters reflects as much emotional intensity—from heartbreaking estrangement to devoted love—as a season full of Dallas or Dynasty. Fischer asked one of her interview subjects how she felt when something she did made it seem she was acting like her mother. "Mostly terrible," the woman answered. " 'Cause it's always the negative things that I remember and associate with her...Of course there are positive things, but they don't come to mind." Fischer, a University of Minnesota sociologist, is addressing the same subject Nancy Friday did in her 1977 book, My Mother/My Self. Fischer's writing style is much drier and she is weighed down by the scholar's compulsion to state the self-evident: "Obviously, a daughter can never catch up to her mother's age." Her sample is small, too, consisting of about 40 mother-daughter pairs she interviewed for research projects at Minnesota and the University of Massachusetts. She is very systematic, however, and—this is the positive side of her academic approach—much less prone to generalizations. If this is not pop social science, it is thoughtful and provocative. Friday's book suggested that mothers and daughters were natural enemies in some ways. Fischer's point is that not only do mother-daughter relationships differ widely from family to family, but that any given mother and daughter constantly create a shifting set of obligations and rewards for themselves. Having a child, for instance, usually brings a woman closer to her own mother, Fischer writes. This is a book that raises a lot of questions, yet provides mothers and daughters with a starting point for asking themselves how well they get along. It also suggests that monitoring such an always-evolving relationship is a vital process. (Harper & Row, $17.95)

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