The Middle of Everything

Memoirs of Motherhood

When she was three months old, Michelle Herman’s daughter, Grace, went on a hunger strike. At six, she suffered what can only be described, in the old-fashioned way, as a breakdown. And at the ripe old age of eight, she began a study of the nature of “true romance.” Motherhood may come naturally, but it doesn’t necessarily come easily—certainly not as easily as it seemed to this mother when she vowed to do a better job than her own mother had. But the real trouble started when Herman decided that “better” wasn’t good enough: she would be the perfect mother.

A memoir from the front lines of motherhood by a longtime writer of fiction, The Middle of Everything weaves a daughter’s memories of her Brooklyn childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, and the shadow cast on it by her own young mother’s paralyzing depression, with a middle-aged woman’s account of trying to break her mother’s mold by meeting her own child’s every need.

A story of love of all kinds, of work and friendship (especially best-friendship, its rewards and perils both), of the charms of other people’s families, of the miseries and pleasures of aging, and of the twists of the ties that bind each generation to the next, Michelle Herman’s book is an energetic, exhaustive, lacerating, unflinching, and often hilarious inside look at the very nature of motherhood.

“Honest, brave, and humbling, Michelle Herman’s account of striving to become the mother her child needs…is the story of every woman dedicated to sparing her child the pain of her own youth. We want to believe that love doesn’t make mistakes, but Michelle Herman knows the truth: like water, love assumes the shape of the vessel, always imperfect, that holds it.”

—Kathryn Harrison

“A unique primer on the pitfalls of striving for parental perfection.”


“Herman writes about the multifaceted experience of parenting with elegance and hard-earned humility.”
Publishers Weekly
The Middle of Everything is a poignant, provocative, and painful book . . . . What is marvelous in the book is that somewhere amid all the recollecting of her past and examining of her daughter’s present comes a conclusion completely fresh and original. . . . It is a gift to find such candor and honesty—and even humor—on this difficult subject.”
–Mariflo Stephens, Virginia Quarterly Review