... [a] searching new memoir ... Moore takes the trouble to see her mother’s choices in their historical and social context ... Moore is sparing with the details of her protracted conflict with her mother ... Readers of The White Blackbird, her 1996 biography of her maternal grandmother, the painter Margarett Sargent, will find some of the details in this ruminative, sometimes lyrical memoir familiar. The process of understanding a parent, perhaps like memoir writing, never ends. The writer and the child return repeatedly to a collection of fragments, rearranging and reconsidering them in the shifting light of age.
Moore represents a white family of considerable privilege, a fact that is acknowledged in the text but still limits the perspective. Moore shares intimate glimpses of her family life and coming-of-age story, beautifully integrating excerpts from her mother’s writing among her own recollections and research. However, perhaps because it seeks to cover too much territory, the book sometimes struggles to remain engaging and at times gets bogged down by details. Overall, readers will catch the spirit of the story, but without a clear sense of the book’s purpose and what comes next ... Moore offers a rich exploration of an individual whose life and family were dramatically altered by second-wave feminism. However, the account struggles with the dual tasks of being both biography and memoir and takes on more than it can satisfyingly deliver.