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Book Review: “Things I Wish I Told My Mother”

I am a bibliophile. My idea of a perfect afternoon is spending the day sipping coffee and wandering around my local bookstore. My Amazon cart is currently filled with hundreds of “to be read” books, totaling a price way out of my budget, but I know I will still order them anyway!

I recently read a book that popped up as a recommendation on Goodreads called “Things I Wish I Told My Mother,” by Susan Patterson (with James Patterson) and Susan DiLallo. It sounded like an interesting title and peaked my interest right away.

The narrator, Laurie, is a divorced, thirty-something advertising executive living in New York City. Her mother, Dr. Liz, is a widowed, sophisticated and highly well-respected OB-GYN. These two characters could not be more different and have never truly bonded with each other. Laurie is laid-back, adventurous and caring, while Dr. Liz tends to be a little more on the high-maintenance side and is very critical of her daughter.

Already having experienced the death of her father, Laurie has a strong understanding of just how precious time is. After a health scares lands her never-sick, health-conscious mother in the hospital, a panicked Laurie plans an impromptu mother-daughter trip of a lifetime to Paris, with a stop in Dr. Liz’s native Norway to visit her estranged family.

Throughout the book, Laurie and her mother eat local delicacies at fancy restaurants, tour museums, talk to strangers on trains and even have their own whirlwind romances. From bickering over hotel décor and outfit choices to comforting each other after heartbreaks, each pivotal moment of their journey is relatable. While their trip was filled with it’s fair share of arguments and meltdowns, it was also filled with empathy…and some surprising revelations about one another.

Without exposing any spoilers, I was not expecting, nor was I prepared for, the final twist that occurs when Laurie and her mother return to the States. What I thought was a lovely, breezy read quickly turned into an important lesson that will stay with me long after finishing the book. “Things I Wish I Told My Mother” left my eyes filled with tears and my heart filled with love.

“Things I Wish I Told My Mother” really encouraged me to examine the relationship I have with my own mother. Unlike Laurie, I’ve always been extremely close to my mother. We lost my dad when I was young and built an even stronger bond through the trauma we both experienced. Are we different? Of course. My mom may not be able to rap the entirety of Will Smith’s “Welcome to Miami,” but I couldn’t finish a jigsaw puzzle if my life depended on it.

My mom has never met a stranger. She makes friends wherever she goes, while I, a true millennial, should be the posterchild for all anti-anxiety medications. She is great with numbers and loves math. 9+5 gives me trouble. Sure, we’ve had a few arguments here and there. We can’t always agree on everything, but those differences are perfectly balanced by our paralleled similarities.

In the last year, I’ve endured some things that would have been entitled to some discernment. Instead of judgement or disappointment, my mother showed support and compassion and did everything in her power to help me. Reading “Things I Wish I Told My Mother” made me realize that not everyone is lucky enough to have a bond like ours and it’s not something to be taken for granted.

We all have a very short period to be on this Earth, but, I hope, as a society, we can soon find that sense of togetherness again. Hold a door open for somebody behind you. Give compliments and be kind. Ask your family and friends questions. At some point, we will all have our own “Things I Wish I Told ____” list because we only have so much time.

As I put this book back on my shelf and grab another, I hope the next person who picks it up leaves as inspired as I was.

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