Book Review | Pieces of My Mother by Melissa Cistaro




“This provocative, poignant memoir of a daughter whose mother left her behind by choice begs the question: Are we destined to make the same mistakes as our parents?

One summer, Melissa Cistaro’s mother drove off without explanation Devastated, Melissa and her brothers were left to pick up the pieces, always tormented by the thought: Why did their mother abandon them?

Thirty-five years later, with children of her own, Melissa finds herself in Olympia, Washington, as her mother is dying. After decades of hiding her painful memories, she has just days to find out what happened that summer and confront the fear she could do the same to her kids. But Melissa never expects to stumble across a cache of letters her mother wrote to her but never sent, which could hold the answers she seeks.

Haunting yet ultimately uplifting, Pieces of My Mother chronicles one woman’s quest to discover what drives a mother to walk away from the children she loves. Alternating between Melissa’s tumultuous coming-of-age and her mother’s final days, this captivating memoir reveals how our parents’ choices impact our own and how we can survive those to forge our own paths.” (NetGalley Description)


Memoirs are certainly my favorite genre and it’s because of books like Pieces of My Mother by Melissa Cistaro. It’s such a heartbreaking story and shows just how much people are impacted by their parent’s choices. When a parent makes poor choices their children might follow the same path or spend their lives worrying that they might.  That’s exactly what Melissa Cistaro was going through.

The book is formatted in flashbacks. It starts with Melissa as a young child watching her mother leave and then goes to her as an adult flying to be with her dying mother.  The story continues on like this and follows Melissa’s childhood along the way.

Growing up, Melissa had an unusual relationship with her mother. Her mother had left, but was never really gone. She’d visit randomly and Melissa would occasionally take trips with her mother. Reading the book, you can really feel that she never understood why her mother left.

This book really hit home for me. Both Melissa and I had a mother that we didn’t really understand.  We didn’t understand the decisions they made and why they continued doing what they did seeing how it effected their children. While my mother never left us like Melissa’s did, I feel that she left us mentally. I felt a lot of what she was feeling growing up. She asked why her mother wouldn’t stay while I’ve asked why my mother couldn’t stop taking her pills.

It was clear that Melissa kept her feelings bottled up…just like I tend to do. She had so much anger towards her mother, but didn’t want to tell her, fearing that her mother would run away again. I felt that in this paragraph:

“What good would it do me to unravel the anger inside me? I might hurl this heavy ceramic coffee cup across the table. I might stand up and tell her she sucks at being a mom. But that isn’t me. I’ll need to take her as she is right here, right now – fragrant, strip-searched, and full of mystery.”

There was a line in the book that also reminded me of my siblings. “We line up, three across, and stand over the grate with our legs apart until it gets too hot and the metal edge starts to burn the bottoms of our feet.” I laughed when I read this because that’s exactly what my siblings and I did when we’d get ready for school. We’d fight over it just like Melissa did with her brothers.

Pieces of My Mother is about learning to forgive even when you don’t fully understand the decisions that were made. It’s also about learning to forgive yourself and know that the decisions people make are their own.

I would highly recommend this book for those of you that love a good memoir.


“But memory is never linear. It’s as random as the wildflowers that grew behind our yellow house – a purple lupine here, a patch of California poppies there, a circle of yellow buttercups – and hidden among them, the slivers of broken glass that sliced our feet open. I was searching for the memories that could rescue me.”

“She pretends to be reading something on the page but her mind is somewhere else. I feel like she’s trying to show me that she’s okay, that she can still do the thins she’s always done. She is pretending to read and I am pretending that this does not break my heart.”




RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2015

GENRE: Biographies & Memoirs





Author photo © Adam Karsten

author photo © Adam Karsten

Melissa Cistaro’s stories have been published in numerous literary journals, including the New Ohio Review,, and Brevity as well as the anthologies CHERISHED and LOVE and PROFANITY. She works as a bookseller and event coordinator at Book Passage, the esteemed independent bookstore in Northern California. Melissa graduated with honors from UCLA and followed her literary pursuits through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and the Tin House Writer’s Workshop in Portland. Between the years of raising her children, writing, bookselling, teaching horseback riding, and curating a business in equestrian antiques – Melissa completed her first memoir. Pieces of My Mother will be released on May 5th 2015. (Bio from Melissa Cistaro’s website, link above)

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3 thoughts on “Book Review | Pieces of My Mother by Melissa Cistaro

  1. lynettedavis May 28, 2015 at 11:05 pm Reply

    Ran across this book at B&N today as I was looking for another memoir. From the first few pages and your review here, this sounds like a great memoir to read. Great cover too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Danielle Olson May 29, 2015 at 8:30 am Reply

      Definitely a good memoir. If you read it let me know what you think.


  2. lynettedavis July 24, 2015 at 9:26 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Memoir Notes.

    Liked by 1 person

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