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The Bad Daughter
     

The Bad Daughter

by Julie Hilden
 

When Julie Hilden's mother became ill her daughter didn't do what was expected of her. Julie chose to abandon her mother and make her own life. As a child, she used books to escape her mother's silent retreats and bewildering rages. When Harvard's acceptance letter came, she fled. She blamed no one for her sad childhood, and she never asked for forgiveness. THE BAD

Overview

When Julie Hilden's mother became ill her daughter didn't do what was expected of her. Julie chose to abandon her mother and make her own life. As a child, she used books to escape her mother's silent retreats and bewildering rages. When Harvard's acceptance letter came, she fled. She blamed no one for her sad childhood, and she never asked for forgiveness. THE BAD DAUGHTER is Hilden's haunting, intelligent story of how she began discarding all traces of her former life. In the course of the story, however, Hilden discovers that she can never fully escape her past. Each new relationship she forms is influenced by her betrayal of her mother. And in a final, chilling irony, Hilden learns there is a good chance she carries the very same gene for early-onset Alzheimer's that brought on her mother's terrifying fate. "It's hard to decide what is more remarkable about Julie Hilden's THE BAD DAUGHTER: her unusual courage and frankness or her remarkable gifts as a writer. This is an absorbing book and an impressive debut."—Alison Lurie.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
When her mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, 22-year-old Hilden refused to do what her aunt Betty and society expected her to doquit law school and care for her now-incapacitated parent. Indeed, before her mother's death, Hilden visited her only once in the nursing home. Although the author expects readers to condemn her actions, she asks, "Would other people really have chosen to care for a mother who wasn't loving, who was often angry, who was often simply gone?" Hilden's brief memoir recalls her unhappy childhood with an alcoholic mother and her attempt to escape and create a new life. Ironically, Hilden, now 29, has a 50-50 chance of carrying the gene for early-onset Alzheimer's. While she raises some powerful issues (selfishness vs. self-preservation), her book is weakened by pretentious, "literary" prose and an unnecessarily long section explicitly detailing her sexual affairs. For collections where dysfunctional family memoirs are popular.Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
A disquieting and gripping memoir on what the author rightly calls a "taboo story": a child's abandonment of a parent in desperate needþhere, a mother afflicted at age 48 with early-onset Alzheimer's. A Yale-trained attorney living in Washington, D.C., Hilden portrays her mother, who was divorced when the author was a young girl, as very emotionally distant and alcoholic even before the disease took hold. Hilden felt that as her mother slipped into the terrible "death in life, this half-way state" of increasing confusion, then dementia and incontinence, she had to free herself entirely from her mother's orbit and from any caretaking responsibilities. Recoiling from "fear and revulsion at what a body can become," she made a complete break to create a life for herselfþthe author only visited her mother, after many years of separation, during the last days of her life. Hilden writes movingly about her decision's implications for her other relationships, especially her repeated difficulties becoming close to, boyfriends (on whom she sometimes cheated). She is unblinkingly honest in analyzing herself, noting how leaving her mother and never looking back until the end was both emotionally freeing and crippling. In relationships, "I had the dubious, valuable skill of leaving," while study and then working hard reinforced "the myth of myself as an efficient academic machine," an often reality-based self-perception that "consoled me all my life." Hilden never deeply probes the ethical implications of her decision, from which she maintains a certain cool, rational distance and which she unambiguously reaffirms as necessary at the book's end. But she does write evocatively, oftenin short, punchy sentences, about her mother's very difficult pre-Alzheimer's personality, the disease's irredeemable ugliness, and her own sometimes "ruthless" personality. While Hilden does not come across as a responsible daughter or even, much of the time, as a terribly likable person, she unquestionably is a skillful, unsparing practitioner of the art of confessional autobiography.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565121850
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
01/04/1998
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
198
Product dimensions:
5.36(w) x 7.22(h) x 0.78(d)
Lexile:
960L (what's this?)

What People are Saying About This

Kirkus Reviews
"A disquieting and gripping memoir on what the author rightly calls a taboo story -- "unblinkingly honest." --Kirkus Reviews

Meet the Author

Julie Hilden was born in Teaneck, New Jersey in 1968. She graduated from Harvard magna cum laude in 1989 with degrees in Philosophy and English. She received her JD from Yale Law School in 1992. In 1995, she earned an MFA from Cornell University, where she studied with Alison Lurie. She now lives in Washington, D.C., where she works as a litigator practicing criminal defense and First Amendment law.

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