15 relatable novels about mothers and daughters

15 relatable novels about mothers and daughters

In Reading Lists by G.G. Andrew

15 relatable novels about mothers and daughters

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, so now’s the perfect time to read not just about the family matriarch, but about one of the most complex and rich relationships out there: the one between moms and their daughters.

These mother-daughter novels aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. Some do depict that idyllic best friend relationship we all hope for, but others reveal the more challenging aspects of mother-daughter bonds — from misunderstandings and generational trauma to the grief of losing a loved one.

Anne of Green Gables is always a favorite, since it honors adoptive mothers and found family. The Bonesetter’s Daughter is also a must-read, especially for mothers and daughters who struggle to understand one another.

No matter your family dynamics, you’re sure to find a relatable story among these fiction books about mother-daughter relationships.

1. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

One of the most lauded novels of 2023 begins at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lara’s three adult daughters return to the family cherry farm to quarantine, and their mother fills the long hours by sharing stories of her early adulthood, when she had a brief acting career and a whirlwind romance with a rising film star. 

Patchett (The Dutch House, Commonwealth) solidifies her reputation as one of the best literary talents of the century by lacing beauty and meaning into every strand of this ode to mothers, daughters, and how parenthood changes us. This audiobook is narrated by the iconic Meryl Streep.

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Ruth has a fraught relationship with her mother, LuLing, who suffers from dementia. But Ruth’s feelings are transformed when she reads LuLing’s memoirs of her upbringing in China around the time of Japan’s invasion, and the events that brought her to America. 

Few authors write about mothers and daughters as beautifully as Tan. You’ll be moved by this story of intergenerational trauma and healing, along with her other novels like The Joy Luck Club.

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3. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Allende’s debut novel established her as one of top Latin American literary talents of our time, and it continues to be one of her most popular. When I think of mother-daughter novels, The House of the Spirits immediately comes to mind.

Clara del Valle Trueba, a woman with a connection to spirits, is married to the bold Esteban, who has political ambitions in their country of Chile. But when their daughter has a forbidden love affair, the child that results brings change to both their family and nation.

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Two sets of mothers and daughters star in this captivating intergenerational tale brimming with secrets. Widow Veena wants to protect her ambitious daughter, Mala. But her choices have unexpected consequences that echo through the years. Their story connects with that of another mother, Nandini, as her daughter, Asha, learns the truth of her adoption.

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5. Amazing Grace Adams by Fran Littlewood

Most mothers — especially ones with teenage daughters — can relate to the heroine in Littlewood’s debut.

Once, Grace Adams had a thriving career and a happy family. Now, she’s 45 and grappling with an aging body, impending divorce, and hostility from her teen daughter, Lotte. The story moves between the past and the present, where we find Grace making her way across London to deliver a birthday cake to Lotte, hoping to reconcile. 

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After a cancer diagnosis, real estate mogul Lana Rubicon moves in with her estranged adult daughter, Beth, and teen granddaughter, Jack. When Jack discovers a dead body and is falsely connected to the crime, Lana is determined to solve the mystery, reclaim her independence, and reconnect with her family. 

Simon’s debut, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, is a relationship-driven crime caper about three generations of women who’ve let their differences separate them for too long.

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7. The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

As a kid, Paula’s mother Kai took them where the wind blows and told Hindu-inspired stories along the way, until a mistake landed her in jail. Years later, when Paula works as a divorce attorney, she receives a mysterious note from her mom — and learns of a half-brother she never knew about. 

Paula sets out to find her mother and discover the truth about her family in this novel driven by both mysteries and Paula’s emotional journey.

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8. Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman

After a woman is found on a bus with no memory and no ID, she submits herself for a scientific study led by a controlling doctor. As the team tries to solve the mystery of her identity, she fights to create a new one, and the daughter she left behind struggles to understand why her mother disappeared. 

This riveting psychological thriller is ultimately a gripping tale of memory and identity, truth and power.

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9. This I Know by Eldonna Edwards

Set in the 1960s American Midwest, this moving coming-of-age story follows Grace, an 11-year-old girl who must hide the gift of her psychic intuition from her father, a conservative pastor. 

As Grace struggles to fit in with her sisters, she forms bonds with a homeless man and a new classmate, which break her out of her shell. But she’s tested when she sees a premonition regarding her mother’s — and her overall family’s — well-being, and has to choose whether to speak up or stay silent. 

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10. Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

Frey’s novel about mothers and daughters questions moral absolutes. It follows Sarah, a successful woman who kidnaps a five-year-old girl living with an unfit mother — a woman who’s not even sure she wants her little girl back. 

This utterly gripping story is a perfect choice for book clubs. There’s so much to discuss about Sarah’s morally gray choice: Would you have done the same in her shoes? Are extreme solutions like kidnapping always wrong? 

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11. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne’s adoptive mother, Marilla Cuthbert, is one of those literary moms who shaped many readers as kids and continues to hold a warm place in our hearts. Marilla’s strict ways are no match for Anne’s shenanigans — nor is her reserved heart a match for Anne’s disarming, unabashed love. Their evolving bond reveals the beauty in found families.

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12. Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

In Handle with Care, Charlotte’s beloved daughter, Willow, is born with a serious condition that causes neverending broken bones. As the family’s financial burden piles up, Charlotte makes a shocking decision to sue a longtime friend in what Publishers Weekly calls Picoult’s “trademark blend of medicine, law, and love.” 

We can always count on Picoult for a juicy read that deals with family drama and provokes complex moral questions, as seen in this novel and her bestselling My Sister’s Keeper.

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13. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

To save her baby girl’s life, Kavita gives her up for adoption, and she’s whisked out of their native India. Years later, after Asha grows up as the daughter of California physicians, she clashes with her white, American-born mother. 

When Asha is offered a chance to return to India, she takes it, seeking the opportunity to connect with her culture. Tracing the journey of families both found and forged, this is a story that will stay with you.

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14. Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

Teen Claire and her single mother rarely see each other anymore, but they still have the notes they leave for one another on their refrigerator door. If you love epistolary novels, you’ll enjoy this quick read told through messages between mother and daughter as they discuss work, school, and boys, before a shocking diagnosis turns their letters more serious. 

This celebrity-narrated audiobook is brought to life by two talented actresses: Dana Delany (China Beach, Desperate Housewives) and Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls, Mamma Mia!).

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15. The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth

In California, single mother Alice cares for her daughter, Zoe, a girl who struggles with debilitating social anxiety. But when Alice is diagnosed with cancer, she must rely on a social worker and nurse to help them both. 

This moving novel about four women and their relationships to one another will tug on your heartstrings, so keep those tissues handy.

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About the Author: G.G. Andrew

G.G. is a freelance writer and author of romance and women's fiction, including the short story "Everything Left Unsaid" in the collection A Million Ways: Stories of Motherhood. A Texas transplant, she lives outside Houston with her husband and two sons, both of whom are on the autism spectrum. In her spare time, she enjoys browsing bookstores, yoga, paper crafts, cooking, genealogy, and anything related to Halloween. She's probably drinking tea right now.