I need help with the book Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This book is a memoir written by Vivian Gornick about her own life when she was young. In short, Gornick always struggled with her mother in order to gain independence from her. The book is haunting due to Gornick’s mother’s attachment to her daughter which is definitely “fierce.”

Gornick presents a taboo subject by naming Freud as the creator of the “oedipal complex,” but furthers the idea by saying that there is an underlying sexual nature in the mother and daughter bond. Gornick is born in the Bronx NY as a child of what she calls “urban peasants.” Gornick’s mom is continually upset (borderline clinical depression) about the untimely death of her husband. As a result, she is always interested in the romantic exploits of her next door neighbor, Nettie. Gornick grows up looking at these two different feminine identities as she tries to find love. As Gornick describes it, there would be “years of calm” followed by years of “wildness.” Further, Gornick says she absorbed these memories “as I would chloroform on a cloth laid against my face.”

We walk with the two main characters (Gornick and her mother) through the streets of the Bronx as they reminisce and, as readers, we learn to like them both. Gornick is brave in bringing these subjects up with her mother while Vivian is also still powerful and wise (and still trying to exert control).