Fierce Attachments

  • by Vivian Gornick
  • Narrated by Jill Fox
  • 6 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 listener'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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Mother Daughter Relationships

On and off my Mom and I had a difficult relationship. What daughter doesn’t?! For this reason I was curious to read about the author's relationship with her mother. This is the central theme of the book. Then I read that there was a bit of a controversy when the author stated that parts were fictional. This surprised me. The author is a fellow at Radcliffe, so I figured the book ought to be well written....

Could I spot what could have been fiction rather than fact? To this I can only respond that I often found myself asking, "How in the world did the author remember that?!"

Then there is the question of whether I liked the writing. For me the language was half of the time clever rather than clear. Too academic, too intellectual, too philosophical. If you know what you want to say, I prefer it be said as simply and clearly as possible.

In my view the author all too often saw the source of a problem as being sexual. This just didn’t occur to me! I found other explanations.


In the book I felt there were many opinionated statements about others - the author's neighbors, friends, boyfriends and her mother. While Vivian Gornick may be a fellow at Radcliffe, I haven't read that she has a degree in psychology! I cannot say that her stated conclusions are wrong, but I often came up with other feasible explanations!

Rather than empathy or understanding I all too often felt I was listening to an argument where I could not judge the validity of the statements being made.

The audiobook narration by Jill Fox was clear, but nothing special. When dramatic statements occurred she did get it right.

I am glad the book was short and am happy that at Audible you can return those audiobooks you dislike. I will be returning mine.
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- Chrissie

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-13-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios