Review by MAIZURA ABAS
CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: THE MAGIC OF MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS
101 Inspirational and Entertaining Stories About That Special Bond
By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Amy Newmark
Publisher: Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
I once heard of a book reviewer who wrote along the lines of: “There is a Chicken Soup book for every kind of soul out there!” It wasn’t said kindly but the reviewer is quite right. Since authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen came up with the original Chicken Soup for the Soul book in 1993, there have been more than 200 titles in the series published.
I was very amused when I found out about the existence of a Chicken Soup for the American Idol’s Soul. Again, completely speechless when I spotted Chicken Soup for the Singapore Soul: Stories to Inspire and Uplift the Hearts of Singaporeans in a bookstore. I couldn’t help thinking about how the Chicken Soup cynics could use this as ammunition for their tirade against the Chicken Soup books.
Having said all that, when I had the chance to read Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers & Daughters, co-authored by Canfield, Hansen and Amy Newmark, I did so without any reservations. To me, there is something rather amazing about the way a Chicken Soup book works to stir your soul and move you. Well, it either does that to you or it makes you want to throw up. I am not mincing my words here. I have heard the words “cheesy” and “contrived” used to describe the Chicken Soup books on many occasions.
The Magic of Mothers & Daughters, like most of the Chicken Soup books, is no exception. As stated on its cover, this book contains 101 inspirational and entertaining stories about that special bond between mothers and daughters. The stories, short with not more than four pages each, are mostly written in a way that is accessible to everyone. They are not essays but non-fiction short stories with a message. The stories have been compiled under 10 themes entitled: A Daughter’s Love, Rites of Passage, A Mother’s Love, The Face in the Mirror, Family by Choice, Away We Go, Learning from Each Other, Healing and Second Chances, What Goes Around Comes Around, and Dreams Fulfilled.
I must warn you that you’d be disappointed if you expected all 101 stories to be inspirational and entertaining. Some, I have to say, are rather pointless and not exactly beautifully penned but you get that with any compilation especially one with this many stories. To tell you the truth, I was surprised that the editors chose to put the first 10 stories in the book there. They are certainly not the best. Nor do they represent what you should expect from the rest of the book.
Something you do get in this book is variety, in the range of topics and the quality of writing. Some of the stories broach difficult subjects such as bereavement, cancer and mental illness. I definitely did shed more than a single tear when reading some of these stories. I felt that they were written with great honesty and cast a light on the suffering and great obstacles faced by some women in what is sometimes not the easiest of relationships, that between a mother and daughter. Many of the stories in this book highlight this, but in the end, there is always hope and triumph because of that unbreakable bond between a mother and her daughter.
There are also stories that got me laughing like a lunatic about daughters playing the part of fashion police, daughters morphing into their mothers, daughters and the mess they leave behind and the funniest of them all, the story titled Mom Jeans - I won’t say any more. There is nothing worse than a book review that robs the reader of the joy of finding out for him or herself what the book is all about.
Funnily enough, even though I have little experience of the relationships between adopted and step mothers and daughters in real life, I found the stories about them in this book the most poignant. They serve to remind me of deeper lessons about gratitude and putting things into perspective.
I must add that what lends a very special touch to this book is how each section and each story is preceded by a really lovely or funny quotation. Two of my favourites are: “Adolescence is a period of rapid change. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years.” (Author Unknown) and “The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” (Ellen Goodman) There are also some hilarious cartoons accompanying each story that help to illustrate the messages in the stories.
I believe the Chicken Soup magic works best on those who like short stories with a lesson in them and those who can’t find the time to read a book in its entirety. I have met quite a few people who dislike reading but love the Chicken Soup books. I would recommend this book to any mother or daughter who says she is too busy to read but likes the idea of dipping into a book or loves motivational stories. Serious literary types need not bother.
If your mother or daughter fits the bill, as Mother’s Day is just around the corner, you might want to consider getting her this book as a gift - one that is heartwarming and lasting.