Fierce Attachments A Memoir

FSG Classics

Vivian Gornick; Introduction by Jonathan Lethem

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

224 Pages



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In this deeply etched and haunting memoir, Vivian Gornick tells the story of her lifelong battle with her mother for independence. There have been numerous books about mother and daughter, but none has dealt with this closest of filial relations as directly or as ruthlessly. Gornick's groundbreaking book confronts what Edna O'Brien has called "the prinicpal crux of female despair": the unacknowledged Oedipal nature of the mother-daughter bond.

Born and raised in the Bronx, the daughter of "urban peasants," Gornick grows up in a household dominated by her intelligent but uneducated mother's romantic depression over the early death of her husband. Next door lives Nettie, an attractive widow whose calculating sensuality appeals greatly to Vivian. These women with their opposing models of femininity continue, well into adulthood, to affect Gornick's struggle to find herself in love and in work.

As Gornick walks with her aged mother through the streets of New York, arguing and remembering the past, each wins the reader's admiration: the caustic and clear-thinking daughter, for her courage and tenacity in really talking to her mother about the most basic issues of their lives, and the still powerful and intuitively-wise old woman, who again and again proves herself her daughter's mother.

Unsparing, deeply courageous, Fierce Attachments is one of the most remarkable documents of family feeling that has been written, a classic that helped start the memoir boom and remains one of the most moving examples of the genre.


Praise for Fierce Attachments

"There are only so many words in the dictionary with which to say how very good this book is. Fierce Attachments deserves them all."—The Washington Post Book World

"Gornick is a distinctive and startling artist—the true subject of this brilliant book."—The Nation

"Searingly intimate and courageous . . . Gornick's writing is brilliant, clean, and colorful, simultaneously evoking the inner and outer spaces she is trying to illuminate."—Mother Jones

"Inspiring . . . Gornick carves, in careful, electrifying words, each scar and glory of her unconventional life."—Guardian Book Supplement

"A profound rendering of the human psyche, and especially, the fierce nature of mothers and daughters."—Christine Hamm, Altar Magazine

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Fierce Attachments

I'm eight years old. My mother and I come out of our apartment onto the second-floor landing. Mrs. Drucker is standing in the open doorway of the apartment next door, smoking a cigarette. My mother locks the door...

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  • Vivian Gornick; Introduction by Jonathan Lethem

  • Vivian Gornick's books include Approaching Eye Level, The End of The Novel of Love, and The Solitude of Self. She lives in New York City.

  • Vivian Gornick Mitchell Bach