27 Oct Mother-daughter relationships: fraught! Guest post from Herta Feely
Hi guys, today I have the pleasure to welcome Herta Feely to This Chick Reads. Herta is the author of ‘Saving Phoebe Murrow’, a story about the timeless struggle between mothers and their teen daughters. Herta is a journalist and editor and though she’s written numerous pieces as well as ghost written two memoirs, ‘Saving Phoebe Murrow’ is her debut in the world of fiction. The book was published on 20th October by twenty7 (an imprint of Bonnier Zaffre) and looks like a truly thought provoking book. While I’m a mother of two boys, I’ve always found books exploring mother-daughter relationships fascinating (I’m a daughter after all) and this book seems like an insightful and gripping story. Is there a perfect parent or a perfect child? What does perfect even mean? What’s the best way to raise our children and how can we keep the world (including themselves) from doing them harm? ‘Saving Phoebe Murrow’ explores these questions and I’m so excited that I got a review copy (thank you to amazing Emily Burns from Bonnier Zaffre). I’ll be posting my review soon because I know you’re intrigued from everything I just said, but for now I’ll leave you with Herta’s amazing guest piece. Oh and I was totally surprised to read Herta was born in former Yugoslavia (as am I, and still live in Macedonia, part of former Yugoslavia) so I guess this was meant to be – her book and me Take care everyone and thank you for reading!
Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely
Published on 20.10.2016
A timeless story of mothers and daughters with a razor-sharp 21st century twist, this heart-wrenching debut for fans of Jodi Picoult, Jane Shemilt and The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas will make you question how you and your family spend time online
Isabel Murrow is precariously balancing her career and her family. Hard-working and caring, worried but supportive, all Isobel wants, in a perilous world of bullies and temptations, is to keep her daughter Phohebe safe.
Phoebe has just attempted suicide. She says it is Isabel’s fault.
Saving Phoebe Murrow is a timely tale about an age-old problem – how best to raise our children, and how far to go in keeping them from harm. Set amidst the complicated web of relationships at the school gate, it tells a story of miscommunication and malice, drugs and Facebook, prejudice and revenge.
When I began to write Saving Phoebe Murrow I had no idea that I’d be riding the turbulent waves of mother-teen daughter relationships. But the theme arrived naturally. If writing about teen girls, then unless they are motherless, mothers will oftenalso play a role. In this novel two teen girls (Phoebe and Jessie) and their mothers (Isabel and Sandy) are central to the story.
Mother-daughter relationships: fraught!
Each girl has a very different relationship with her mother. I tried to explore how those relationships would fare under different circumstances. Phoebe, a kind, smart but sensitive girl, chafes under her mother’s over-protectiveness and unwillingness to appreciate the choices she is making, whether about friends or future career. Her mother, Isabel (a busy successful lawyer), has other ideas and isn’t listening. She’s being judgmental, too. How will that affect Phoebe? I don’t want to reveal too much, but the sensitive Phoebe suffers. A more carefree girl like Jessie, Phoebe’s best friend, might do better, but her own mother (Sandy) is the polar opposite of Isabel. And initially that seems to go well. Sandy indulges her daughter in a way that Sandy’s own mother didn’t. Sandy creates few limits, and instead pushes her daughter to be popular. Eventually, there is a cost to this, too.
By showing the reader the consequences of these two mothers’ behaviors, I hope women readers will be inspired to discuss the two women’s parenting styles, and arrive at ideas about techniques that might work better. I hate to give parenting advice, because I’m not an expert, but I think (based on what happens in the story) it may be obvious what I believe. Briefly, I think it’s important to love your child unconditionally, create boundaries and limitations to keep them safe (as safe as is humanly possible), and recognize each child’s differences and honor them. Perhaps lastly, I’d say that a parent should NOT try to be their child’s best friend. That’s abdicating parental responsibility.
The perils of social media
It’s been shown that in the UK some 7 out of 10 children/young adults(aged 13-22) experienced some cyber-bullying (according to NoBullying.com). In other words, they were bullied on one or more social media platforms. That’s only one peril. Because contact often occurs only through the Internet, phony profiles can easily be created, so while you may think you are flirting with a teen boy, as is the case for character Phoebe, you may actually be flirting with someone entirely different, who does not have your best interests at heart.
Recently, in the US, a 13-year-old girl (Nicole Lovell) met an 18-year-old Virginia Tech student through a Facebook group (Flirting and Dating). She snuck out one night in January (2016) to meet him and was found murdered three days later. The student, David Eisenhauer, is in prison on murder charges.
Many cases of suicide have occurred both in the UK and in the US as a result of cyber-bullying. One of the problems with the advent of social media is that it’s difficult to avoid your tormentor(s); social media continues 24/7. There’s no getting away from it. Awful things can be posted and then they stay there for fellow students to see, again and again.
I believe social media can be terribly challenging for parents, as it was for Phoebe Murrow’s parents. You want your child to be able to participate in the normal things that teens do, but you also want to protect them from predators and cruel people.
Other books, other authors
I wasn’t overly influenced by any author in the writing of Saving Phoebe Murrow, though I do devour books and read lots during the period of my writing, between 2011 and 2015. Here are a few whose authors I admire and that I consider close in “genre” to my own (domestic thrillers that contain quite a bit of tension, suspense and multiple plot twists): Liane Moriarity (Big Little Lies), William Landay (Defending Jacob), and Herman Koch (The Dinner).
About Herta Feely
Herta Feely is a writer and full-time editor. In her previous work, she was a journalist, press secretary and activist, co-founding Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to saving children from unintentional injuries. Herta has received the American Independent Writers’ award for best published personal essay.
She now lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and two cats, Monty and Albert. She has two sons, Jack and Max.