Book Review: All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad (eARC)

All My Mother’s Lovers

Author: Ilana Masad

Publication Date: 26 May 2020

Genre: Adult Fiction – Contemporary, Literary Fiction

Pages: 336

Publisher: Dutton Books

Intimacy has always eluded twenty-seven-year-old Maggie Krause—despite being brought up by married parents, models of domestic bliss—until, that is, Lucia came into her life. But when Maggie’s mom, Iris, dies in a car crash, Maggie returns home only to discover a withdrawn dad, an angry brother, and, along with Iris’s will, five sealed envelopes, each addressed to a mysterious man she’s never heard of.

In an effort to run from her own grief and discover the truth about Iris—who made no secret of her discomfort with her daughter’s sexuality—Maggie embarks on a road trip, determined to hand-deliver the letters and find out what these men meant to her mother. Maggie quickly discovers Iris’s second, hidden life, which shatters everything Maggie thought she knew about her parents’ perfect relationship. What is she supposed to tell her father and brother? And how can she deal with her own relationship when her whole world is in freefall?

Told over the course of a funeral and shiva, and written with enormous wit and warmth, All My Mother’s Lovers is the exciting debut novel from fiction writer and book critic Ilana Masad. A unique meditation on the universality and particularity of family ties and grief, and a tender and biting portrait of sex, gender, and identity, All My Mother’s Lovers challenges us to question the nature of fulfilling relationships.

Do you ever finish a book and you love so many things about it, but when it comes to putting your thoughts into coherent sentences you come up short? That’s how I feel about writing the review for All My Mother’s Lovers. This book blew me away, but yet I don’t feel like I can accurately portray why.

27 year old Maggie Kraus has had a strained relationship with her mother Iris ever since she told her parents that she was lesbian. When her Iris dies in a tragic car accident, Maggie drops everything to return home where she finds her father barely functioning and her brother just a ball of anger.

While trying to deal with all of the funeral arrangements, Maggie finds that her mother has left five envelopes to be mailed as her last wishes, but they are addressed to men that Maggie has never heard of. Who were these men and what did they mean to her mother? Rather than mail the letters, Maggie decides to deliver the letters in person, which sets in motion a journey to uncover so many secrets that her mother kept from her.

All My Mother’s Lovers is a beautifully written tale that highlights the intricacies of relationships, especially familial ones. This story tackles a myriad of issues such as racism, prejudice, privilege, biases, sexuality, gender, etc. As we go through the story, we watch Maggie evolve from an angsty somewhat immature twenty something to someone who begins to understand the complexity of relationships as she learns about her mother as a person versus her mother as a parent.

I’ll be honest, this story will not be for everyone. However, if you enjoy reading books that truly challenge you and your beliefs, pick this one up. This is one of those stories that you need to go in with an open mind and see where the story takes you. The journey is absolutely worth it.

Thank you to Dutton Books for providing a review copy through NetGalley. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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