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What We Carry: A Memoir (Hardcover)
“A gorgeous memoir about mothers, daughters, and the tenacity of the love that grows between what is said and what is left unspoken.”—Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk
If our family stories shape us, what happens when we learn those stories were never true? Who do we become when we shed our illusions about the past?
Maya Shanbhag Lang grew up idolizing her brilliant mother, an accomplished physician who immigrated to the United States from India and completed her residency all while raising her children and keeping a traditional Indian home. Maya’s mother had always been a source of support—until Maya became a mother herself. Then the parent who had once been so capable and attentive became suddenly and inexplicably unavailable. Struggling to understand this abrupt change while raising her own young child, Maya searches for answers and soon learns that her mother is living with Alzheimer’s.
Unable to remember or keep track of the stories she once told her daughter—stories about her life in India, why she immigrated, and her experience of motherhood—Maya’s mother divulges secrets about her past that force Maya to reexamine their relationship. It becomes clear that Maya never really knew her mother, despite their close bond. Absorbing, moving, and raw, What We Carry is a memoir about mothers and daughters, lies and truths, receiving and giving care, and how we cannot grow up until we fully understand the people who raised us. It is a beautiful examination of the weight we shoulder as women and an exploration of how to finally set our burdens down.
Praise for What We Carry
"Part self-discovery, part family history. . . [Lang's] analysis of the shifting roles of mothers and daughters, particularly through the lens of immigration, help[s] to challenge her family’s mythology. . . . Readers interested in examining their own family stories . . . will connect deeply with Lang’s beautiful memoir."—Library Journal
“A stirring memoir exploring the fraught relationships between mothers and daughters . . . astutely written and intense . . . [What We Carry] will strike a chord with readers.”—Publishers Weekly
“Lang is an immediately affable and honest narrator who offers an intriguing blend of revelatory personal history and touching insight.”—BookPage
About the Author
Maya Shanbhag Lang is the author of What We Carry, named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a “Good Morning America” Mother's Day pick, and a Must-Read/Best of 2020 Memoir by Bustle, BookRiot, Parade, Times of India, and others. She is also the author of The Sixteenth of June, long listed for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and named a Must-Read Novel by CBS and InStyle. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and others. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature, received the Neil Shepard Prize in Fiction, and is the daughter of South Asian immigrants.
“This memoir is more than the sum of its parts. . . . [It] becomes a larger meditation on motherhood, daughterhood and feminism—claiming oneself above all, and the moral struggle involved in doing so. . . . In exquisitely precise prose, Lang makes an argument that honesty is what’s truly empowering.”—Mary Beth Keane, The New York Times Book Review
“A book with such a brave message.”—The Observer
“What We Carry is an exquisite exploration of the boundlessness and limitations of love that makes us examine the unknowability of who we are and the strength of our bonds with those who shape us. This story is so elegantly told, with such rawness and compassion, that I fell madly in love with Maya Shanbhag Lang and her complicated, unforgettable mother and could not put this book down.”—Lori Gottlieb, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
“Nothing short of radical.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“A dazzling, courageous memoir about the weight we carry as women, daughters, and mothers—and what happens when we let go—What We Carry is a love letter to everyone who has swum through turbulent water before reaching the shores of selfhood.”—Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists
“Maya Shanbhag Lang thought she knew her capable physician-mother, but when Alzheimer’s hit her mother early, Lang found herself adrift in a sea of unwelcome truths and ambiguous loss. Anyone facing the ordeal of caregiving, with all its love, loss, and unexpected gifts, will be inspired by this searing and extraordinary memoir.”—Katy Butler, New York Times bestselling author of Knocking on Heaven’s Door
“What We Carry is a wise, tender, and unswervingly honest memoir that reads like a mystery. With emotional precision, Maya Shanbhag Lang investigates the many ways we participate in the often-painful mythology of family. Just as thrillingly, Lang’s ultimate revelation is a hopeful one, reminding us that we are stronger than we think.”—Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men
“A profoundly moving memoir about secrets and trauma . . . In exquisite prose, Maya Shanbhag Lang writes about her extraordinary mother and the cruel circumstances that complicate their relationship. At its heart, What We Carry is about one of the greatest gifts any parent can give a child: the power to save yourself.”—Will Schwalbe, New York Times bestselling author of The End of Your Life Book Club
“How do we really know the ones we love? Lang thought she knew her Indian immigrant mother through her stories until profound truths and unsettling secrets began to emerge, giving Lang an opportunity to come to terms with the ties that bound them. Truly, this is a gorgeous memoir.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You