Cover Image: All My Mother's Lovers

All My Mother's Lovers

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Member Reviews

All My Mother's Lovers is a beautiful rumination on grief and the complexities of family relationships and dynamics.
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I loved that this book had such important lgbtq+ representation, as well as Jewish representation. This is an intersection of identities that I don't often find explored in literature, and I really valued Masad's insight on how those two backgrounds/identities/communities converge. As a queer reader, Maggie's struggle over Iris's failure to accept her sexuality spoke to me on a deeply personal level.
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However, I did struggle a bit with the story's pacing. This book was more than a slow burn... at times it felt more like a crawl, and I don't know if I would have made it through had I not connected on such a deep level with Maggie and Iris's relationship.
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2020 was a difficult year to read stories that so acutely portray loss and grief... especially ones like All My Mother's Love, which centers around the sudden death of a parent. However, this book is profoundly attuned to complex relationships, deep emotions, and the human spirit, I think that it is one that many readers will be able to connect with for years to come.
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Already being touted as one of the best books of 2020, Ilana Masad’s ALL MY MOTHER’S LOVERS is a generous and sharply observed chronicle of grief, sexuality and identity. With the pacing of a thriller and the heart of a romance, it more than lives up to its hype.

Twenty-seven-year-old Maggie Krause is many things: a proud lesbian, a good friend to polyamorous women and married mothers alike, and a competent insurance salesperson. But through it all, she has always struggled with intimacy --- perhaps modeling her own relationships after the one she shares with her mother, Iris. More alike than either would care to admit, they always have held one another at bay. Maggie has long felt abandoned by her mother’s frequent business trips and inability to stay housebound for long, and Iris, despite her support of the LGBT community, has never quite accepted Maggie’s sexuality. For years it was her father, Peter, who Maggie introduced to girlfriends and went on trips with, while Iris remained just out of reach, always more comfortable with Maggie’s brother, Ariel, a nerdy bookworm without Maggie’s penchant for rebellion.

But everything is different now. Maggie is in a sort-of relationship with Lucia, a woman who has opened her eyes not only to the pervasiveness of racism and the need for activism, but also to intimacy. For the first time ever, Maggie is doing things like cooking meals with a partner and staying home smoking weed and making love rather than attending drag shows looking for a new hookup. But that’s not all: One night, while she is cozying up with Lucia, Maggie receives a call that her mother has died in a car crash, and that she must return to California to help her father and brother grieve and prepare for the funeral and life without Iris.

Tracking the course of the funeral and shiva, Masad introduces readers to Maggie and Iris in alternating chapters. As Maggie manages her anxiety over performing the basic tasks of grief and loss with weed and texts to Lucia, she uncovers her mother’s will --- and instructions to mail five mysterious sealed envelopes, each bearing the name of a different man. Faced with a disconsolate and withdrawn father, an angry and hurt brother, and a horde of sympathizers she barely knows, Maggie decides to take a little road trip and deliver the envelopes herself. It is not long before it becomes clear that Iris was not the happily married woman who Maggie always believed she was --- but she was not exactly a chronic cheater, either.

Capturing the full breadth and journey of each relationship in powerful, vivid snapshots, Masad lays bare the fullness of human sexuality and love. Readers already will know a little of what to expect with this book because of the title, and so Masad flips the script, turning the big reveal not into a question of whether or not Iris was faithful, but what her infidelities really meant and how they hurt or preserved her relationship with her family. While you may cringe at the phrase “mother’s lovers” or gasp at the idea of a woman living with so much infidelity, Masad manages to write Iris with warmth and sympathy, reminding readers that all women --- yes, even mothers --- are complex, layered and sexual beings, regardless of what society may tell you.

At the same time, ALL MY MOTHER’S LOVERS is an astute and sharply millennial unpacking of anxiety and intimacy. As much as the book is about Iris, it is equally focused on Maggie and her reckoning with her mother’s life and how it has shaped her own. While she is battling her own tremendous anxiety, she also must deal with major decisions that would send anyone reeling: Should she tell her father and brother what she has learned? Should she lean on Lucia, or would that be asking for too much too soon? Maggie’s interactions with Lucia are a quiet but brilliant highlight of the book; as frequently as she thinks of Lucia, she also finds herself held back by her own insecurities and vulnerability. Too often she sits in her car with her finger hovering over the “like” button as she looks at Lucia’s posts, wondering if she can actually “like” it or if that will seem creepy.

With deftness and subtlety, Masad has captured the full picture of being a millennial and lives that are both too public and too necessarily private. And then, at the height of the novel, we get to watch as Maggie grows and matures into someone who not only can love her mother as a parent, but can appreciate and understand her as a person.

Witty, sharp and unexpectedly warm, ALL MY MOTHER’S LOVERS is a wonderfully modern chronicle of grief and identity. Masad braids together the strands of Iris’ life with care and compassion, painting a fabulous portrait of a complicated woman. This is a tautly plotted and incisive book that will upend your expectations and challenge your beliefs, but it is also a compelling and fast-paced thrill ride. Without holding your hand or preaching to you, Masad manages to make you think differently about everyone in your life, and the ways that you express and share your love with them.
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I really wanted to love this book and only liked it. Took me a while to get into and I kept putting it down without a ton of interest in picking it back up. Could have just been my own attention span though because other readers seemed to enjoy this book a lot more than I did.
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What a beautiful story of a young woman discovering her mother’s identity and finally seeing the connection she never knew she had with her mother. One of my favorite reads this year..
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Throughout her life, Maggie Krause, the protagonist of Ilana Masad’s ambitious, cinematic debut novel, All My Mother’s Lovers, has been shaped by her mother, Iris, despite her best efforts to resist. Like her mother, Maggie has a hard time with commitment, in part tied back to Iris’ absences during long work trips throughout her daughter’s childhood. That Maggie lives with her current girlfriend, Lucia, suggests that she is, for once, trying to love a confident, stable woman.

When Iris dies in a car crash, Maggie travels from her home in Missouri to Oxnard, California, to be with her devastated father, Peter, and teenage brother, Ariel. From there, the narrative moves back and forth in time. Immediately after the crash, we get Iris’ narration of her last day alive, including her visit to an assisted living facility to hook up with one of her lovers. Sprinkled throughout the book are Iris’ accounts of her extramarital relationships, from the 1970s through the aughts. Foreshadowing them as a secret life that Iris has kept from her children is important in All My Mother’s Lovers, as she has requested in her will that five sealed letters be delivered to a series of men. (Though it strains belief—both Maggie’s and likely the reader’s, as well—that Iris would write final missives to all these men, but not her husband of 30 years.) Even after Iris’ death, Maggie defies her mother’s wishes to have Peter just drop them in the mail and volunteers to hand-deliver them herself.

So off Maggie goes, on the road from Oxnard to Las Vegas and Northern California to solve this mystery that forces her to confront her uncomfortable feelings about her mother. She ruminates over the mysterious letters, and the people who will receive them, but she is most neurotic about why her relationship with her mother wasn’t as solid as her mother’s relationship with her straight brother.

Even though we learn that Maggie has shown a lot of the same indiscretions and flaws as her mother—she’s restless, she’s a distant partner who is afraid of commitment—we don’t get a firm sense of Iris’ identity. She’s portrayed, even in chapters written from her point of view, as a cloying narcissist or an aloof, detached woman with an excessive focus on sex. Maggie herself is self-conscious and judgmental—a daughter who nurses the wounds of her mother’s rejection alongside the fresh grief of loss.

Throughout much of the novel, Maggie wrangles over her infidelity with former partners and considers cheating on Lucia—so much so that the scenes where she is driving or stopping for food, texting her girlfriend or calling Ariel, who is growing up fast and trying to have sex with his new girlfriend, sometimes overshadow her mission to find out more about her mother. The result is a lot of time spent in the past.

While Maggie’s decision to hand-deliver these letters is a cool conceit, there are times when the language, even in epistolary form, is a little wooden or technical. Here is Maggie reflecting on why she hates Vegas: “Yes, she thinks, this is the thing about Vegas that she doesn’t like: as fun as it can be it reeks of performative straightness at every turn.” Still, it is a nice change of pace for a book to center on the desire of an older woman like Iris, who is wanted based on her looks, but also ineffable qualities tied to her personhood.

Early on we learn that Iris has bequeathed her lucky amber necklace to Maggie, but both her engagement and wedding rings to Ariel. Lucia wisely asks Maggie if that means that Iris has left Ariel the future and Maggie the past. Well, neither. Iris created an amendment to her will that will give Maggie both the ring and the necklace, and Maggie concedes with the codicil that she was given, ultimately, a little bit of both the present and the past—a generosity she can live with.

For all her faults, by the novel’s end, Maggie is easier to understand as representative of the kinds of reckonings and rituals that save so many queer people when their families seem to desert them. All My Mother’s Lovers is an intimate, complex family portrait that follows the messy life of one queer woman who comes to understand that all relationships are untidy; that’s part of what makes them memorable.
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I liked this book. I enjoy books about families. Families are complicated, and this one perhaps more than others. The mother-daughter relationship was not as it appeared on the surface. I especially liked how the more Maggie, and therefore the reader, learns about Iris, the more Maggie learns about herself.
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This was such a powerful read. We meet Maggie, a 20-something, queer, Jewish woman, who is dealing with the grief of suddenly losing her mother, Iris. As she processes her loss, she learns more about who Iris really was, thanks to letters left behind in her family home. 

Maggie and her mother had a tumultuous history, especially when it came to her mother's acceptance of Maggie's sexuality. As Maggie learns more about her Iris through these letters, secrets are exposed and misunderstandings are slowly untangled.

All My Mother's Lovers is a refreshing look at the intricacies of family and how sometimes peeling back the layers on others can help us better understand ourselves too. While I couldn't relate to all of Maggie's life experiences, anyone who has navigated complex family dynamics will connect with at least some of the myriad of issues presented here. 

Ilana Masad's detailed and nuanced writing masterfully shares the intricacies of family life and the challenges of feeling misunderstood. This book celebrates and normalizes diversity and I appreciated how many social issues Masad incorporated in this literary fiction debut.  I enjoyed being a part of Maggie's journey and only wished the ending was a little more fleshed out as I connected so much with this powerful and unique storyline. 

Thank you to Dutton Books for an advanced copy. All opinions are my own. You can read my full review at genthebookworm.com
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I liked this one.  Easy to read and a decent story.  I'd read further books by the author.  I'm rating it 3/5 stars.
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Twenty-seven year-old Maggie Krause just lost her mother, Iris. Always the model family unit, Maggie returns home to a withdrawn father and an angry brother. When Maggie discovers letters written by her mother to random men, she sets off on a journey that will change her perception of her mother and maybe help her understand herself a bit better, too.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. I just saw it on a queer must reads list of 2020 and added it to my TBR. The premise soon drew me in, and the characters kept me going through the story. There are a few twists and turns, but at its heart, it’s a literary fiction exploration of family, memory, and humanity. Most of us are often surprised to learn of our parents’ humanity, that they are whole people outside of their roles as caregivers to children, and I loved the journey to this discovery for Maggie.

Maggie is a lesbian, which is always a good way to get me to read something, and the story is about her sexuality, her mother’s issues with that, and Maggie coming to terms with that fact (and many others) about her mother, but it’s more about all the parts of people’s lives that children aren’t usually privy to until adulthood, if ever.

I really enjoyed the family dynamics and the relationships that start to develop from adolescent ones to mature between Iris’ surviving family members. There are a lot of feels in here, and it’s not light reading, but I definitely recommend it. It’s a cool spin on the road trip to discovery theme.

Also, if you like this book, I recommend the 2004 film, Eulogy. It’s much funnier than this book, but in a darkly funny and cynical way. Plus it has an all star cast. Anywho, this book is out now in time for Pride and your summer reading list.
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When Maggie discovers 5 letters tucked into her mother’s will, she sets off on a journey with her new girlfriend to hand deliver the letters to the men to whom the letters were addressed. She’s had a challenging relationship with her mom because her mom couldn’t accept Maggie’s sexuality. Maggie discovers she knew little about either her mother or father. Her mom is not only flawed, but she emerges from this search as a human with complex emotions and desires. Great storytelling.
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Thank you Dutton Books and Netgalley for this ARC!. 

I finished this beautiful novel and I was blown away.  It took me longer than usual because of the serious and heavy subject matter.  The author holds nothing back when it comes to sex and intimacy.  I loved the looks into her Jewish heritage also and how that affected her life. 
The novel follows Maggie’s journey as she tackles grief, loss, commitment and acceptance. No one ever wants to think about the mortality of their parents, but what happens when you discover their secret life and wonder if you ever really knew them? I recently lost my father and though he didn't have a secret life, I do relate to Maggie and her grief. 

The ending surprised me but I really enjoyed it. This is a beautiful debut, that I found myself thinking about long after finishing it.
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I found the book to be extremely well-plotted and enjoyed going on a journey alongside Maggie and considering how much of our closest family members' lives remain unknowable to us. The characters were engaging and very believable and I am so glad I read this.
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Sometimes I read a "good book" but it's just not for me. Sometimes I love a book but acknowledge that most people would have been underwhelmed. This book fit neither of those scenarios. I loved this and also think that it's a well-done/important read. I was so surprised when I saw that this was a debut. I didn't love or agree with all of the characters' choices, but that's partly because they came across as so realistic and fleshed out. 

This is a book that celebrates and normalizes diversity - an opportunity for many to open their minds. As she copes with the sudden death of her mother, Maggie Krause is met with the challenge of learning to see her parents as the complex humans they are instead of just "mom and dad". As she goes on this journey (both mental and physical), she also has time to reflect on her own issues and why she is the way that she is. Grief can be messy, but this all came together with a satisfying end.
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4.5 stars rounded up!

Do you ever finish a book and you love so many things about it, but when it comes to putting your thoughts into coherent sentences you come up short? That’s how I feel about writing the review for All My Mother’s Lovers. This book blew me away, but yet I don’t feel like I can accurately portray why.

27 year old Maggie Kraus has had a strained relationship with her mother Iris ever since she told her parents that she was lesbian. When her Iris dies in a tragic car accident, Maggie drops everything to return home where she finds her father barely functioning and her brother just a ball of anger.

While trying to deal with all of the funeral arrangements, Maggie finds that her mother has left five envelopes to be mailed as her last wishes, but they are addressed to men that Maggie has never heard of. Who were these men and what did they mean to her mother? Rather than mail the letters, Maggie decides to deliver the letters in person, which sets in motion a journey to uncover so many secrets that her mother kept from her.

All My Mother’s Lovers is a beautifully written tale that highlights the intricacies of relationships, especially familial ones. This story tackles a myriad of issues such as racism, prejudice, privilege, biases, sexuality, gender, etc. As we go through the story, we watch Maggie evolve from an angsty somewhat immature twenty something to someone who begins to understand the complexity of relationships as she learns about her mother as a person versus her mother as a parent.

I’ll be honest, this story will not be for everyone. However, if you enjoy reading books that truly challenge you and your beliefs, pick this one up. This is one of those stories that you need to go in with an open mind and see where the story takes you. The journey is absolutely worth it.

Thank you to Dutton Books for providing a review copy through NetGalley. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.
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After reading the description of this book on NetGalley I was excited to get my hands on a copy. As a young, queer, Jewish woman I definitely identified with Maggie. Her world felt familiar and authentic to me in many ways. Masad did a great job illustrating Maggie's relationships with both her parents and I appreciated the way we were given further insight into Iris's perspective through flashbacks. Despite her death kicking off the story, she was still given a voice. 
This book was overall thoughtful and compelling. There were many times that the references to social awareness or social justice issues were well done, relevant and relatable, but other times they felt awkward, clunky, and thrown in at random just to make a point. As someone who cares deeply about so many of the social issues raised in the story, I hate to ever say that those conversations don't belong. But that's the thing I suppose. Thoughtful conversations do, but maybe throwaway comments that don't do more than pay lip service to show you believe the "right thing" do not.
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If you love contemporary fiction that centers around family and LGBTQIAA+ relationships, this is your book. 

All My Mother’s Lovers follows Maggie, a 24 year old Jewish woman who is dealing with the sudden death of her mother. She returns home to her father, who is shut down after her death, and her younger brother. Maggie and her mother had a somewhat distant relationship, and Maggie still holds resentment towards her mother for not accepting her sexuality. But when Maggie finds letters addressed from her mother to men she hasn’t heard of (to be sent out after her death), she starts her quest to track down and hand deliver the letters to these unknown men. As the title implies, Maggie’s mother had relationships with these men of some kind, which leaves Maggie angry, resentful, and trying to figure out why and how her mother led this separate life. 

Let me start by saying this is a beautiful look at the intricate relationships in a family, particularly mother-daughter. It shows the complexities of religion, upbringing, privilege, gender, and sexuality, and how those intertwine to shape a persons experience. I had a very hard time relating to anyone in this story, particularly Maggie. I am careful not to judge too harshly, as my upbringing and life experience has been different than hers, but considering she’s my age, I think it’s fair to point out her way of looking at the world and handling situations seemed immature and angsty at times. That being said, I really appreciate the way her view of her relationship with her mom shifted as she gained more understanding and insight into her mom through this journey- that was a special thing to see (I’m a therapist and therefore a sucker for bonding moments). And generally, I was sucked in to the story and just HAD to know how these men fit into her moms life. Perfect when paired with lots of popcorn, the AC blowing, and a comfy spot in bed. 3.6⭐️
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Thank you Dutton Books and Netgalley for the free early copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

I finished this beautiful novel this morning. It took me longer than usual because of the serious and heavy subject matter. I broke it up by reading lighter books in between. The author also holds nothing back when it comes to sex and intimacy. All My Mother’s Lovers is available on May 26th.

This novel follows Maggie’s journey as she tackles grief, loss, commitment and acceptance. No one ever wants to think about the mortality of their parents, but what happens when you discover the secret life that your loved one lead after they’re gone?

The story mainly follows Maggie as she tracks down her mother, Iris’s, past, but we also get glimpses into Iris’s life as well. At first I was mad we didn’t get to read each letter Maggie discovers, but it fit with what would be more likely to happen in real life. This book ended in a way I never would have guessed, but it made perfect sense.

Overall an exquisite and powerful read that I really enjoyed.
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Well, it was an okay book so far but enjoyed it...

Maggie’s mother had so many lovers in the past but Maggie didn’t know what’s going on with her mother’s life...it was really different story...

Thanks to Netgalley for the advanced copy...
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Take.... "To All The Boys I Loved Before" and....let it grow up. That's what this book seemed to me. 

Maggie gets the phone call that no one wants. - there has been an accident and her mother is dead. 

Heading back home to organize the funeral, sit shiva and take care of her grief stricken father and younger brother, Maggie reads her mother's will and finds a packet of 5 letters - all to different men. Maggie - in an effort to know more about her mother, decides to hand delivered each of these letters. 

This is a story about a mother and daughter. About growth and acceptance. About love. 

Excellent writing from Ilana Masad. Sure to be a hit on many list at the end of the year.
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All My Mother's Lovers @duttonbooks #gifted via @netgalley ★★★★  one of my kindle reads for April and it is about exactly what the title says. It begins with Maggie Krause finding out her mom, Iris, has died in a car crash. She leaves her girlfriend to go home only to discover a distraught, withdrawn dad, an angry brother, and her mother's will & five sealed envelopes each addressed to a mysterious man she's never heard of⁠
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We follow her through this road trip journey as she's grieving and trying to discover the truth about her mom and these letters. This is a really strong debut, Ilana touches on family ties, grief, sex, gender, identity, queerness and mother/daughter dynamics. This one also gave me a coming-of-age feel toward Maggie as she grows and tries to discover what it is she truly wants also while trying to keep her family life from totally falling apart.⁠
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Recommend if you love stories about discovering the truth. It releases May 26th, so there is still time to preorder.
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