In the summer of 2009, Katie Hafner, a widow living with her teenage daughter, invited her 77-year-old mother to move into their San Francisco home. It was the beginning, she hoped, of a “year in Provence.” But the “year” only lasted a matter of months: By springtime, her mother had moved out. “Mother Daughter Me,” Hafner’s sixth book and first personal narrative, uses the intergenerational-living setup to come to terms with her difficult childhood — and to accept the mother that she had never quite forgiven.
In the early pages of the book, Hafner reveals that her relationship with her mother, Helen, has never fully healed from childhood trauma. Not scratches, but wounds — the kind left from growing up with a single mother whose alcoholism and inability to parent resulted in her two daughters (10 and 8) being removed from her custody. In an effort to pave the way toward a more honest relationship, Hafner and her mother begin therapy. It’s the first time the alcoholism is mentioned, and it becomes an extra hurdle to overcome in Hafner’s vision of re-creating the happy family life she never had growing up.