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[Love] Rachel: A Daughter's Memoir of Love, Betrayal and Grace

[LOVE] RACHEL explores the historical roots that could reveal why her gifted, wise and gracious mother Rachel turned against her so painfully in her youth and did not take back her accusations even on her deathbed. Rebecca's search takes readers across the Pacific to her mother's childhood in the outback of 1920s New Zealand, her fateful voyage to the Pacific Northwest in 1939, where she meets and quickly marries an American cult leader--Rebecca's father-- whose sudden accidental death leaves their small family struggling to survive. The author wins acceptance to an elite women's college, but finds herself an outsider facing barriers resembling those her mother once encountered in the British class system. Her dream of a scholarly career is deferred, but prayers are answered by a chance to be reconciled with her dying mother. The memoir pulls together strands of insight that cast light on motives behind both overt and hidden forms of cruelty in this and possibly other close relationships. [LOVE] RACHEL speaks of believable miracles--how, despite decades of soul-wrenching accusations, personal integrity can be empowered from within.

Painter’s heart-rending debut memoir chronicles both her mother’s turbulent history and her own. Originally from a remote farm in New Zealand, Painter’s mother, Rachel, a nurse, was in the 1940s given the opportunity to take a luxury cruise to Canada with a wealthy society woman. Having just reconnected with the love of her life, Douglas, Rachel’s plan was to return to New Zealand after her trip to marry him. While in Canada, the start of World War II greatly delayed her trip home and sent her to the United States, where she met the man who would become Painter’s father. Rachel later tells her daughter the sad story that, due to a miscommunication in a telegram, she lost Douglas and decided to marry Roger Painter. That decision changed the trajectory of Rachel’s life, leading to a myriad of struggles and complications.

Seamlessly transitioning from present to past, and from Rachel’s life to Rebecca’s, Painter (who goes by Becky) stirs reader empathy and understanding for all that she and her mother have gone through -- especially how each decision they have made in their lives affect their relationship. Becky strives to prove how much she loves her mother, while Rachel insists that that isn’t true, all while rarely expressing pride in her daughter. Painter’s account of this recurring conflict is affecting, and readers will feel invested in how Becky spends her life demonstrating love to a woman who cannot see it.

While stirring deep emotions from readers, Painter also draws deeply on a life of reading, writing, and teaching literature, going beyond the story of these individuals and bringing readers across the beautiful land of New Zealand, into the struggles of farm life and women’s dependence on husbands, and the experience of daily life from the 1920s to today. Painter hasn’t just written her own memoir; she’s illuminated her mother’s life and the lives of everyone around them.

Takeaway: Readers looking for a mother-daughter memoir that beautifully describes a tangled relationship will be drawn into Painter’s sweeping story.

Great for fans of: Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, Kate Millett’s Mother Millett

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A