This book will inspire reflection, reflection about the kind of sibling you are, the kind of parent, the kind of mother and the kind of mother-in-law. It will make you contemplate about how you might change your own behavior to enhance your relationship with your own in-laws, and it will make you see more clearly, the reasons for a daughter-in-law’s sometimes intractable behavior.
What starts out as a seemingly charming little tale about the relationship between daughters-in-law and their adopted families, becomes a deeper exploration into the relationships among family members when the dynamic is interrupted or impacted by an “out-law". A happy state of affairs often becomes a war zone.
The Brinkley’s were a close knit family. Two sons, Ralph and Luke, were married. Their brides quietly acquiesced to the structure established by Rachel Brinkley. She was the matriarch who was used to ruling the roost, being very helpful and being in demand by all of them. She was their go-to person. Anthony Brinkley was more mild mannered, and he remained in the background, never making waves. Then, one day, stage left, Charlotte enters. She is the new wife of the third son, Edward, and the scene begins to change from one of harmony to one of discord. Whether or not she instigated it, is not important. She was the first to send ripples into the water, overtly rocking the Brinkley boat and threatening to overturn the ship of state. All of a sudden, Rachel is public enemy #1; in some cases it is due to her own tactlessness, rudeness and pride; in some cases, it is due to the selfishness, pettiness and/or immaturity of one or another daughter-in-law.
It was like a house of cards; one fell and the others threatened to topple over too. Ralph’s marriage and business were failing; his wife, Petra, begins to resent the changes in her life that are being forced upon her; Luke’s wife, Sigrid, is looking to reconnect with her own neglected family in Sweden; Edward’s wife, Charlotte, enters into a power struggle with him and his family over which family should be more important. The problems raised are common in all marriages, but here they are examined from all perspectives. The selfishness of the young and the need for control that is desired by the old are in direct conflict with each other. They will all have to learn to tango together.
The men are largely viewed as benign. There is competition and interference from all sides, but the men are viewed as more agreeable. If the men weren’t so complacent and weren’t so threatened by their often over-emotional wives, perhaps the mean mother-in-law myth would disappear, because the concerns would be discussed, would see the light of day, rather than be dreamed up in the dark of night and then sprung on everyone by surprise .This story is about changing relationships, about the fact that you really can’t go back once you have gone forward, about changes that happen around you that also effect you, because with maturity and responsibility comes the need for you to adjust and change to suit each new situation.
Relationships are largely about perception. The same incident is viewed and interpreted differently by each of the players involved. Most parents of daughters do not consider the parent of the son. They want to be the favorites and they encourage it. Many of us have been on all sides of this issue as the wife of a mil too attached to a son and vice versa, as the mother of a daughter whose husband prefers her family, as a parent with a son who has a wife who is like Charlotte. Hopefully, none of us has had to deal with all of these issues. It is not an easy job to manage.
The book will make you wonder, why men are portrayed as less intimidating while women are viewed as the bullying enemy. Why are mothers and daughter’s-in-law natural enemies, but fathers and sons-in-law friends? Why is it so important for a daughter-in-law to feel that her husband is no longer his mother’s son, but is now only hers? Why is a son who shows respect for his mother’s needs considered in a negative light while a daughter who shows respect for her mother is admired? Marriage doesn’t change how a parent feels about her children, male or female. Mothers care equally for their sons and daughters.
In this book, daughters-in-law may become defensive about what they are reading, mothers-in-law may become self righteous, but regardless of one’s personal reaction, this is a very insightful book about family problems and marital problems, sibling jealousy issues and in-law competition. Read it with an open mind and you will see shadows of yourself in all the roles. Recognize that there is a need for compromise and communication in a marriage, a need for honesty in order for the marriage to survive. Above all, one has to remember, relationships are works in progress, they just don’t happen.
I enjoyed the book, as I read and recognized similar moments of conflict in my own life, but in real life, I am not so sure things would have worked out so well in the end.