Cover Image: Dog Flowers

Dog Flowers

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Member Reviews

The author tells the story of her mother who is homeless using her box belongings.  The story includes her homeless father and substance abusing center Grief makes this relatable. The Navajo background of her mother is explored. A hard life is eloquently portrayed in these pages.

Copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley
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Thank you to Netgally and Random House Publishers for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I give this book a solid 5 stars.  Danielle Geller is a truly wonderful author with a gift for allowing the reader an unvarnished but compassionate look into her life.  She discusses at length how her mother was a caretaker and able to care for others, and how she is not.  Ms. Geller is not a caretaker of people, but she is a caretaker of other people's truths.  She is able to take care of the truths of herself, her parents, her sisters and her people and create a powerful book.
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Dog Flowers is the diary of Danielle Geller, a girl on a journey to the past to find out her mother's truth while in tandem finding her own journey.  Having drug and alcohol abuse in my own family, I instantly identified with Danielle in a lot of ways, her words evoking memories of my own past, and unlocking pain that I have carefully tucked away, not yet wanting to deal with.  The courage and bravery that Danielle shows by putting her words out there, and sharing her remarkable story, is commendable.

Like a diary, the writing is imperfectly perfect, each chapter focusing on a different facet of life, cohesively going back and forth, from the past to the present.  The pan and anguish of finding her mother's life, while trying to find her own, is evident on every page, the vibes making this a depressing, yet surprisingly educational read.

To get a glimpse into another person's life like this is why I am so drawn to memoirs.  In Dog Flowers Danielle even includes photos that she found in her mother's things, describing each photo in detail, adding even more depth to the already heavy narrative, bonding you more and more to Danielle and her family.

I found Dog Flowers to be a hard, yet wonderfully powerful story of self-discovery, and motivates me to look to my own family, and find those truths that have been too painful to know.
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It could have been subtitled “The Book I Wanted to Stop Reading but Couldn’t.” Danielle Geller writes a memoir in which she opens her life to readers and demonstrates amazing strength. Adopted by her paternal grandmother because her parents were alcoholics, her life was a mountain of hurtles. She was continually rescuing and providing shelter for her father and addicted sister. She moved from relationship to relationship. After her mother’s death, she reconnected with family members on the Navajo reservation.  Her powerful story is illustrated with photos she found after her mother died. Using her archival training, she adds pictures in archival style as footnotes. She uses her education as a creative writer to write a heart wrenching story of her reconnection to her Navajo family and the future she hopes to have.
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A very interesting non-fiction account of the authors maternal Native American family. I came to this completely uneducated in this culture and found Ms Geller’s account to be compelling and engaging. I thank #netgalley and the publisher for this ebook of #dogflowers to read and review
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In Dog Flowers, Danielle Geller recounts her journey through life, recalling her difficult and unstable upbringing, her parents both alcoholics, and how she came to terms with the constant uncertainty after her mother’s death. Using her mother’s diaries and photographs, as well as her life experiences, Geller is able to weave together a memoir as unique as one of her Navajo-inspired rugs. 

I found Dog Flowers interesting but sad, that Geller’s many attempts to help her father and her sister Eileen failed, that her visits to the reservation were a direct reflection of her childhood and mirrored the life she was hoping to escape, and that all her struggles for a better life seemed almost impossible.
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This book was too all over the place for me. I thought it sounded interesting but the timeline was confusing (did she drop out of the MLIS program and go for Fine Arts or ? Does she work at a job related to her field or just work at Thrift shops most of the time ? Is she dating that Marc guy the whole time or are they just friends? ) and I couldn't really figure out the whole archival set up either. I hope they format the book better for Kindle if they move forward with the photos because they were very cut up and I wasn't sure what I was looking at sometimes. I did enjoy learning more about Navajo culture but sometimes that was a bit choppy as well.
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Reading this book was like walking through a swamp. There were some glimmers that the way ahead would be worth it, but the tedious slogging through the boring parts became too much for me and I finally gave up. Through sheer will power, I made it to 68% before I decided to stop. This woman had an interesting story to tell. She just told it in a very uninteresting way. Poorly written and in need of serious editing, this book was a disappointment. There are lots of other memoirs out there more worthy of your time. 
Note:  I received an advance copy of the ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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I read a least 50% of this so im counting this as read. I wouldnt normally even rate a memoir but this was all over the place and all the time jumps made this really hard to follow. This was chock-full of trigger warnings. Drug and alcohol abuse. Incest between siblings of her dads girlfriend kids. Relationship trauma and abuse, misogyny, sexual assault, rape, neglect, molestation of a child, suicide, psychiatric hospitals stay. Those were all just in the first 15% of the book but continued to where I got to in the book. So with the confusing order of events and all the trigger warnings I could not read any further. My sister did say she was going to pick this one up though after my review because she said it sounded right up her alley so there is an audience for this, unfortunately just wasnt for me.
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This is truly an incredible memoir and I appreciated the author opening up about her family history and personal trauma. Geller’s moving and beautiful writing coupled with archival documents create this incredible journey of loss, family, traditions, heritage, the family we are given and the family we choose. I will absolutely recommend this to people looking for a great memoir/nonficiton book!
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Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for an egalley in exchange for an honest review.

The thing about reviewing and rating another person's memoir is that it is so personal and raw for anyone to put their story out there for all the world to read. So I do feel like a bit of a heel to rate it so low. However, I have to stay faithful to the way I review and although I read the entire memoir, I really wanted to give up around 30%.



Goodreads review published 12/01/21
Publication Date 12/01/21

#DogFlowers #NetGalley
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"I learned very young that my mother was someone not to be trusted -- that she would break my heart if I let her."

Danielle Geller and her sister were raised primarily by her paternal grandmother.  Both of her parents struggled with alcoholism and as a result she was placed with her father's family.  So she heard all of these things about her mother and because she lived apart from her, she came to believe this side of the story.  Then one day she gets the call that her mother is in the hospital dying.  She's had a heart attack as a result of withdrawal.  She tried to quit cold turkey on her own and the DTs brought her to death's door.  When Danielle goes to see her in these last and final days she is not able to talk with her mother.  She's already too far gone.  

Upon leaving her mother's side she inherits these eight suitcases which contain all of her mother's possessions.  The last one has letters and cards and pictures along with her mother's journals.  Being a librarian and an archivist Geller takes this treasure with her and as she is culling through it she tries to reconcile with the memory she has of her mother.  Her mother obviously isn't this woman who her father's family depicted.  She's obviously not this woman that she holds in her memories that are few and far between.  Most of these are unreliable as they are tainted by youth, slippery and vague.   Here in this box is the woman who her mother thinks she is.  So Geller is pressed to put all of these different versions of her Mom into some type of whole so she can get a better sense of who her mother is.  In doing so, she can get a better sense of who she is. 

"You are an alcoholic.   You just haven't had your first drink yet."  
This is a common phrase in the rooms where they say that adult children of alcoholics have the "isms"  without the alcohol.  The behaviors and dysfunction are perpetuated and repeated from one generation to the next.  Within an alcoholic family members take on specific roles:  "The Hero", "The Scapegoat", "The Caretaker" . . .  Danielle Geller was the caretaker and in that role she found herself continually taking in her alcoholic father and addict sister even as they cycled through recovery and relapse.  Through all of those years of fixing everyone else's messes Geller, as caretaker, rarely thinks of taking care of herself.  As a result she suffers from mental illness.  She  goes through years accepting that she is not going to be happy.  Her dreams and visions for her future include being a spinster and a lone wolf in the desert.  On her journey to finding her way out of this perpetual cycle of alcoholism she goes back to her mother's home on the Navajo reservation.  She learns that the Navajo way is that we are all sisters of the same clan.  That elder is your aunt or your grandmother.  No matter how unclear the ties, if your of this clan we are all family. 

Finally she finds peace and happiness with her husband Owen.  

When I first picked up this book I was under the impression that it would be an epistolary memoir with notes and letters between mother and daughter within the chapters.  But where you find Tweety Lee's words is in the footnotes.  It took me a while to figure out Geller's reason for writing it this way.  Then it came to me.  Even though this book is about Geller discovering who her mother was, this is still Danielle's story.  Her mother's voice is just there to inform her narrative.  The spotlight should be on Danielle as she learns to deal with her codependency and enabling of these addicts within her family.   This book is about her breaking the cycle and breaking free so that she can have happiness of her own.

"I cannot forgive my father; forgiveness risks too much.  My mother chose my father, and men like him, and I must make another choice.  I must choose my sisters."
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... I HAVE SOME THOUGHTS Letme preface this by saying that it is tough to critique a memoir because it’sakin to saying, “sorry I didn’t like your life story”, but the way I read memoirs is to educate myself, have my heart broken, or be inspired. Basically,there needs to be a point to your story. I know I know, not everything in lifehas a meaning, but for a general audience, you need to give a meaning to yoursuffering. 
In a memoir, there’s a fine line between writing for the sake of working through life’s struggles and writing for the sake of an audience. A good memoir balances onthis fine line with unassuming ease. DOG FLOWERS teetered on this line for mostof the book before falling into the side of an author writing to digest feelings. I started out enjoying Danielle’s journey of self-discovery after hermother died. Her childhood was heartbreaking and her perseverance through itwas awe inspiring. I felt that Danielle got too bogged down writing about her constant rescuing of her sister and father, and the whole last half of the bookI was waiting for a larger message of hope and courage. Alas there was none,and this whole book left something to be desired. 2 out of 5 stars.Thank you to Danielle Flowers, NetGalley, and Random House Publishing Group for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a tough book to read. Extremely. Especially if you have suffered trauma yourself. I thought this was more about the Indian experience when I was approached to read and review this, and I should have done more research before accepting that challenge. That said, I am not sorry that I read this. And here is why; in reading this, I've realized, that for all the the crap that my father did to me [and to our family as a whole and continues to do], he - 
  1. Never tried to kill my sister or myself. He may have beat me and smacked me around, but he never, ever tried to physically snuff me or my sister [or my mom or step-mom's for that matter] out. 
  2. He always picked women [and there were LOTS of women] that had jobs, homes of their own, that were nice, that had lives that weren't on the edge of anything crazy. They may have drank a lot, but there were no drugs and we were never ever in danger when we were with them and their friends. 
  3. He ALWAYS had a job himself [sometimes several] and he always fed and clothed us when we were with him [and made sure we had those things when we were with my Mom] - even as a high-functioning drunk, he knew we needed to eat. 
 4. He wasn't in and out of jail. The cops weren't always at our house. He never did [that I ever knew of] anything illegal. 
 
And in reading this memoir, I have realized, that for all the crap I suffered at the hands of him as a child, teen and adult, I still have room to be grateful. I know that sounds weird - how does one be grateful when there is known abuse [and I know that not everyone gets this and I both see and acknowledge you. I am so sorry that you have suffered at the hand of a parent and that you have never gotten closure. I cannot imagine how difficult your life must have been and continues to be. My heart breaks for you and I pray that you can find the truth and end that you need to move forward]? Because you read things that remind you that it ALWAYS could have been worse. We were never homeless. We always had a place to live and food on the table. It might have been just mac and cheese, but we ate. And that is something to be grateful for. And even though Danielle isn't able to forgive her father [and there is absolutely NO judgement here], I have found that forgiveness has helped me at certain times. Maybe because I am not a writer, it is how I move forward. I don't know. I DO know that you have to do whatever you need to do to move forward. And I applaud her for that. 

There are no other words for how I feel right now about this. I am so glad she came out on the other side of all that she experienced, that she is one of the lucky ones. Even for all that she went through, she is absolutely one of the lucky ones. Not everyone makes it through to the other side and finds even a semblance of happiness. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Danielle Geller, and Random House Publishing - Random House/One World for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for a chance to read and review this ARC. Book publishes on Jan 12, 2021.

Someone who enjoys reading about American Indian lore would like this book. This is Geller's story about her life and the life of her mother. Geller tries to retrace the steps that lead to her mothers death from alcoholism. Sometimes reliving a life, understanding our heritage, and coming face to face with traditions is very unsettling. This book tells of Geller's journey and heartbreak.
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I read a review copy, and if what I read is what ends up being published, then I cannot recommend this book. As is, it need serious editing and plenty of rewriting. 

The writing came across as disjointed, jumping from time and place, as well as person to random person with little to no introduction or even explanation. As a reader, I got no real insight into Gellar's thoughts and feelings, past or present, and I certainly didn't get to go on a journey of discovery with her. It was so frustrating.

This exercise of writing might be cathartic for the the author, but what I read does not meet the basic criteria of a book ready for publication.
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DOG FLOWERS is memoir as exorcism. Author Danielle Geller is a gifted writer and uses all manner of prose and storytelling to share with her readers the story of her life and the excavation of details related to her parents’ roles in it. Once her mother dies, she strives to understand what role her long absent mother has played in the wreckage that constitutes her fractured family’s existence. This is a dark tale; I’m not sure  either writer or readers receive catharsis through its telling. I hope Geller finds other engaging topics; she is well worth following. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
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This is a totally shattering look at a life defined by alcoholism, drug use, madness, neglect, and abuse. It is amazing that the author survived, let alone became strong enough to write about it. I hope that she is able to find happiness in her future.
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An elegantly written memoir about family, trauma, and identity. I found the way the author used her archival training to document the included notes, letters, photos, etc. in the book really interesting and that it added a compelling spark to the story as the author processed her childhood through these objects.
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Dog flowers are the muddy paw prints dogs leave on a rainy day, the ones you want to get rid of, annoyed. But what if these dog flowers are the only remains of a life and of a person you know very little of? What if understanding these patterns might help you discover yourself and heal, maybe?
You can start with sorting, assessing and archiving the few possessions your drunk, homless, dead mother who abandoned you, left behind, or sort your own -unhappy- memories or try to reconnect with your mother's family, with your roots. Or try all of them.
My feeling, at the end of the book, after all this trials, is that we are what we want to become. We can be happy, though we did not experience happiness in our lives, we can have a family, even if we did not feel we belong with someone for such a long time.
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