From Where I Stand

September 1, 2021

Bur­dened by a trou­bled his­to­ry with her moth­er, Eliz­a­beth strug­gles to raise her own teenage daugh­ter dif­fer­ent­ly. Although she wants to cel­e­brate when Belle receives an oppor­tu­ni­ty miles away in New York City, she fears this will fur­ther their estrange­ment. Worse, Belle will be raised by her grand­moth­er-the per­son from whom Eliz­a­beth has pur­pose­ful­ly dis­tanced her­self. While Belle is delight­ed to move to Man­hat­tan and Grand­moth­er Lil­lian looks for­ward to vic­ar­i­ous­ly enjoy­ing her suc­cess, Eliz­a­beth vol­un­teers to focus her ener­gy on a young girl who has been removed from her home and, unlike Belle, wants noth­ing more than to be moth­ered. The con­nec­tions of these women to the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties in which they were raised, from which they’ve fled and to which they’ve grav­i­tat­ed, help them nego­ti­ate the jour­ney for­ward, but the dis­clo­sure of a long-buried secret threat­ens to keep them apart for­ev­er. Car­o­line Gold­berg Igra’s From Where I Stand explores the chal­lenge of being a moth­er, the frus­tra­tion of being a daugh­ter, and the heart wrench­ing com­plex­i­ty of being both.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Car­o­line Gold­berg Igra

  1. Con­sid­er the def­i­n­i­tion of moth­er.” Dis­cuss the dif­fer­ent ways to moth­er offered in the novel.

  2. How does the book’s title reflect the struc­ture of the nov­el? The book is writ­ten in first per­son. Each char­ac­ter presents their sto­ry. How might the book have been dif­fer­ent if offered in third person?

  3. What role does Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty play in the lives of the main characters?

  4. Is it pos­si­ble that the bumpy rela­tion­ship between Eliz­a­beth and her moth­er, Lil­lian, was due to a mis­un­der­stand­ing? To what degree do per­spec­tive and expec­ta­tions turn the tables on lev­el- head­ed life assessments?

  5. Lil­lian had to make a hard choice, career vs. fam­i­ly. Is that kind of choice eas­i­er to make in this gen­er­a­tion or just as difficult?

  6. The char­ac­ters evolve over the course of the nov­el. Is this due to exte­ri­or events – things that hap­pen — or inte­ri­or development?

  7. From Where I Stand is all about rela­tion­ships. Is it impos­si­ble to change ones that have been set over the course of decades? If so, how? What might be the steps that would enable such change? 

  8. How does phys­i­cal dis­tance affect rela­tion­ships? Can vast dis­tance be overcome?

  9. All of the char­ac­ters yearn for some­thing they don’t have. Is this part of human nature or some­thing spe­cif­ic to them?

  10. Describe the per­fect moth­er: the char­ac­ter­is­tics we would like (have liked) in our own as well as those we hope to achieve our­selves where relevant.