Book Review

A story of a complicated relationship, with a shocking twist

By Donna Bruno
Posted 5/15/24

Laurie Margolis, a 36-year-old advertising executive, and her mother, the highly respected physician, …

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Book Review

A story of a complicated relationship, with a shocking twist


‘Things I Wish I’d Told My Mother’
By Susan Patterson and Susan DiLallo

Laurie Margolis, a 36-year-old advertising executive, and her mother, the highly respected physician, 68-year-old Dr. Elizabth Ormson, have shared a very ambivalent relationship their entire lives. When her mother suffers a heart attack, Laurie suddenly sees her ever-confident, independent, forceful parent reduced to a vulnerable, weakened woman.

True to form, Dr. Ormson is trying to run the show, even in the hospital emergency room. Laurie is used to this, as her mother was always a domineering presence, as well as critical of her daughter’s behavior and appearance.

In contrast to the well-coiffed physician in her expensive designer outfits, Laurie sports casual clothing in subdued colors in an attempt to fade into the background. This desire is not accidental, as Laurie feels inferior in multiple ways due to her mother’s attitude. In an effort to induce her mother to co-operate, on the spur of the moment, she dangles a carrot before her mother – upon recovery, they will take a trip to Paris.

The moment she makes this proposal, she regrets it, recalling earlier trips that turned into disasters. During a visit to Disney when Laurie was seven, her mother forbade her to go on scary and dangerous rides, as well as Cinderella’s Golden Carousel, because it was too “sexist.”

Even trips to the supermarket became contentious battles. Every encounter and conversation highlights their differences. The trip to Paris might have been a gastronomical delight if the weight-conscious doctor allowed her daughter to savor its luscious offering; but the doctor’s critical eye notices every pastry her daughter samples. And her oversight does not stop there.

She despises her daughter’s battered travel bag, and her lack of concern about a beauty regimen. She is intrusive when Laurie steps out one night as her mother is preparing for an early bedtime. While Laurie prefers to sleep a bit later in the morning, her mother is singing, “Time to wake up. Time to shine, Time to say. The World is Mine.”

You get the picture.

As a result of that evening, Laurie meets a good-looking, debonaire traveler to whom she takes a liking, but feels she must keep him a secret from her mother. Of course! What her mother could not possibly know is that Laurie has planned an excursion to Norway, her mother’s birthplace, where they will visit Dr. Ormson’s sister and her family.

The highly emotional eruption from her mother, when she learns of this, surprises and puzzles the daughter as she believed such a reunion after 50 years would be the highlight of the trip.

There is much more to this story: the development of a romantic relationship with the fellow traveler at the hotel bar; the mother’s continued efforts to control; the intense emotional blow-up on the country road enroute to the sister’s humble village home; and finally, the reunion itself, when Laurie begins to understand why her mother left to seek her future in the U.S.

This is primarily a story of a deeply flawed mother-daughter relationship with all its myriad conflicts. It is also a delightfully tantalizing vicarious tasting of French cuisine, since so many of their dinners are described in minute detail as to make the reader’s mouth water. In addition, it is a mystery to be solved regarding Elizabeth’s sudden departure from Norway at age 17.

Most of all, it is a reckoning of a very difficult mother-daughter relationship, as well as a romance thrown into the mix. To boot, there is a shocking, unexpected twist at the end – one which the reader could never have foreseen.

Donna Bruno is a prizewinning author and poet recently recognized with four awards by National League of American Pen Women.

2024 by East Bay Media Group

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