by Schine, Cathleen
Publisher:Back Bay Books
Cathleen Schine, the author of The Love Letter, takes on the "sandwich generation" in her tale of three mothers, She Is Me. Regal, cranky Lotte is the matriarch of the trio, mother to Greta and grandmother to Elizabeth (who also has a child of her own). All three points of view are presented in the novel, as each of the women struggles with her personal demons: Lotte has a quickly spreading skin cancer, Greta also has cancer and is beginning to question her heterosexuality, and Elizabeth has uprooted her life to write a doomed screenplay based on Madame Bovary. While the trepidations they face are daunting, Schine keeps the tone light and humorous throughout, capturing the complicated nature of mother/daughter relationships--specifically the peculiar way in which they can loathe and love each other at the exact same moment.
Though the alternating perspectives are ostensibly meant to bring depth to the story, in this case it most often results in confusion. Segments shift from one woman's view to another's all too quickly, forcing readers to spend the first several sentences of each section figuring out whose mind we are in. This choppy style also makes it difficult to care about any one woman in particular. Also distracting from what could otherwise be a compelling story are the external characters, which are either superfluous or underdeveloped. Much like Elizabeth's screenplay, this tale doesn't represent the writer's best work. --Brangien Davis