"As for the hundreds/ of undug holes that will one day/ need filling," she continues, "I can almost hear them: their pitch, taut as tinnitus, aching/ out of an open field, gaping like/ unmothered
mouths thirsty for rain."
When at the end of the novel Bride regains her womanly body, she is pregnant, and this transformation shows "that childhood trauma can be overcome and unmothered
children [can] become loving mothers to the next generation" (187).
leaves that, waving, seem more animal than these unmothered
, neglected, incongruous' (Salter 1971:69).
Deftly presenting how the absence of a nurturing maternal hand could influence the development of a daughter's self identity, and what might result from the loss of such a role model and source of emotional support, Motherless Daughters tells of why living beyond a mother's final year reminds a daughter of her exquisite separateness; how present-day relationships are defined by past losses; what the "unmothered
" woman can do to reclaim her autonomy and restore her connection to the family of the motherline; and how to understand grief as an ongoing journey.
Carlisle also points out the unusually heavy weight of responsibility for others that the unmothered
Elizabeth spontaneously assumed throughout her life.
responsibility, prolonged closeness to death, short 5-HTT genes--suicide is the hardest of losses to explain.
Bodenheimer shows how the gain of motherhood in adoption of Lewes's boys might be reflected in the adoption by Silas of Eppie, but also (in the case of Thornton and Herbert) points to the parallel of the unmothered
Cass boys, who are in danger of wasting their lives in immorality and debauchery; the relationship of life and fiction is further complicated by the story of Nancy's childlessness, which Bodenheimer understands to be morally connected with the childless author's repressed anxieties and unfulfilled desires.
He hates her for smiling when she doesn't "have to," and for appearing "alive and responsive and attentive," because he is unaware that the childhood of an unmothered
black girl might entail "a fast crack on the head if you let the hunger show" (106).
Unable to work on her planned biography of Constance Fenimore Woolson, unable to distract herself through busyness and achievement, she allows herself to descend through layers of emotional pain, on a journey toward the sadness of recognizing that she was profoundly unmothered
. She realizes how her emotionally distant mother was unable to give her the nurturance she needed - and how she, driven by perfectionism and the need to be successful in all her roles, could not care for herself.