Four Westchester women, Joan Potter, Vicki Addesso, Susan Hodara, and Lori Toppel, wrote a book about their relationships with their mothers. The result: "Still Here Thinking of You," a personal, thought-provoking examination of the true nature of mother-daughter relationships.
From left: Joan Potter, Vicki Addesso, Lori Toppel, and Susan Hodara,
friends and writing group partners
In 2006 the authors of Still Here Thinking of You, who all live in Westchester, formed a weekly writing group where, to their surprise, memories of their mothers became their focus. The resulting book is a highly personal and thought-provoking examination of the true nature of mother-daughter relationships as told through four unique narratives.
“Hopefully, women who read this book will see it as a gateway to revisit treasured moments, pass by the anger and resentment, and discover their mother’s good intentions,” Lori Toppel says.
Toppel, who enjoyed a privileged childhood growing up in Puerto Rico and New York City, is the only member of the group whose parents were divorced. She recollects her mother in happy days during Lori’s childhood, but it is her descriptions of her mother’s growing bitterness—and the resulting tensions between the two women—that are most evocative. Toppel has teenage twin boys.
Susan Hodara, the only writer whose mother is still alive, grew up in a middle-class, observant Jewish home, and had frequently written about her father, a strong-willed man who often berated Susan and her forbearing mother. It wasn’t until she turned her attention to her mother in the writing group that Hodara was able to regard her as more than just a passive figure: “For the first time in my life,” she says, “I caught a glimpse of who my mother really was.” Hodara is the mom of two grown daughters.
Over the years, Joan Potter, a writing teacher, helped others record their memories, but had largely neglected her own. She arrived at the first gathering with a folder of stories she had written about her mother and a 20-year-old cassette tape on which her mother spoke frankly about her early life. Potter, who has two daughters and two sons, explores the secrets her mother kept, as well as her father’s suicide, with vivid language and heart-wrenching candor.
Vicki Addesso, a one-time student of Potter’s, joined the group shorly after having surgery and treament for breast cancer. In working on the book Addesso crystallized her memories of her mother, a loving woman who was often lonely despite raising four kids and taking care of her in-laws in the small home they shared in Eastchester. Through writing, “I found my way back to her,” Addesso says. Addesso has two boys.
While the exploration of the past is what drew me in to Still Here Thinking of You, it is the transforming nature of the narratives that inspires readers to flip the script and look at their own relationships with their children that ultimately marks this book as a winner, in my opinion.
Read an interview with the authors here.
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