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.
From Where I Stand
September 1, 2021
Courtesy of Caroline Goldberg Igra
- Consider the definition of “mother.” Discuss the different ways to mother offered in the novel.
- 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?
- What role does Jewish community play in the lives of the main characters?
- 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?
- 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?
- The characters evolve over the course of the novel. Is this due to exterior events – things that happen — or interior development?
- 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?
- How does physical distance affect relationships? Can vast distance be overcome?
- All of the characters yearn for something they don’t have. Is this part of human nature or something specific to them?
- 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.
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