5 Minutes for Books:
Things I Want My Daughters to Know

This review is cross-posted at 5 Minutes for Books, as a part of our Mother’s Day Giveaway, going on through April 30. Read the review to see how to win one of three copies here at 5 Minutes for Mom, but please click over and check out the other offerings — a book a day — at 5 Minutes for Books.

The plotline of Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble seems difficult at face value: as Barbara is dying of cancer, she records some thoughts, memories, and advice for her daughters to have after she has gone. Depending on the way it was written, the book could be a four-tissue wiper, or simply a story about how the lives of those grown or nearly-grown young women go on after their mother’s death. I had thought from the description that the story was meant to be more of a family drama than a death-bed melodrama.

I hope I don’t sound callous when I say that I didn’t cry one tear when I read this book. Yes, I got a lump or two in my throat, and objectively the thought of losing a parent is hard — at any age. But as the description of the book alluded, this is really the story of the four sisters. Four young women trying to figure out what it means to grow into adulthood — from the perspective of a teenager, a twentysomething, and two thirty-somethings who are as different as can be. As diverse as their choices and personalities, they all have each other, and they all share their mother in common. From the grave, she is able to tell them things that she couldn’t tell them while she was alive — either because she was too afraid, or because they were too stubborn to listen.

This is basically a year in the life — beginning with the funeral and taking them through that first year. As I read, I realized that it’s not really about one woman’s passing from life. It’s about how we all pass through life, as seen through the young women Hannah, Amanda, Jennifer and Lisa. We pass through childhood, into the testing teen years, into young adulthood where we experience changing expectations of ourselves and others, and then through the many stages of marriage and other relationships where we sacrifice ourselves for those we love.

We could read this book with the intent to dwell on the sadness of a life that was too short, or like the daughters do, we can take the words of this fictional heroine to heart: “Life is short. Even if you don’t get cancer. Even if you die an old lady in your bed. It’s still a blink-and-you-miss-it, ever-increasing-speed-white-knuckle ride” (page 37).

You will see yourself in this novel, in one of these characters. You will see your sisters, your best friend, your husband, your child. Elizabeth Noble writes with spot-on characterizations of people and relationships, and that’s one of thing that makes Things I Want My Daughters to Know a great novel.

The book contains a reading guide, and I think it would spark great book club conversations. You can read the first 60 pages online at Harper Collins using their Browse Inside feature.

Leave a comment on this post to enter to win one of three copies of this book. We’ll announce the winners in next week’s column.

The winner of Empowering Youth is #17 edj.

The Welcome, Little One contest is still open through next week!

Contributing Editor Jennifer Donovan also blogs at Snapshot about life with her tween daughter and preschool son, and is managing editor of 5 Minutes for Books.


  1. says

    I don’t know if I will cry reading it or not. I used not to but since I had my children I’m very emotional. Not sure if it’s the hormones :)or the wight of responsibility of being a mom.
    I will read this book even it I don’t win it.
    Thanks for introducing it.

  2. says

    I’m up for some reading now that all my studying is over! Though since my daughter is only two I may have to reread this one to update the info!

  3. says

    This sounds like a good read. Please enter me in the drawing. Might be good to pass on to other generations of women in my family when I’m done reading it. :-)

  4. says

    This sounds like a great book,can’t wait to read and share it, thanks for the information.

    I am having a great party with great wins for you and the family, please tell your friends and let’s have fun..

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  5. Angela Calvert says

    I would love to win this book. Thanks for the giveaway.

    accoupons at gmail dot com

  6. says

    I would love a copy of this book. I have 2 boys and a daughter. I just finished reading Raising Cain so reading a book about girls would be a refreshing change!

  7. Mary Ward says

    I’ll cry reading it. I cry at commercials. I’ve been wanting to pick this book up for some time. I’ve read all her other books.

  8. Cathy W. says

    This sounds like a great book. I’d love to win a copy and pass it on after reading it.

  9. says

    I have to say…if I don’t win, I’m definetly going to have to check it out of the library…I can’t imagine not being here for my daughter…and I think it’s so important to help our daughters grow into women…

  10. Karen L says

    My being both a mother and a daughter (and a sister as well!), makes me relate to the story in this book completely.

  11. Bev says

    I’m in my 40’s, my sister’s are in their 20’s and i have 3 teenage daughters, i think we could all learn something from this book.

  12. nicole schellhas says

    i’m a book addict! i would love to read this one! i have two daughters.. thanks for the chance!

  13. says

    As the Mother of 3 mostly grown daughters and as someone who is called to encourage women to reognize & remember their mothering moments – I would love to read this book.

  14. Sheri says

    Sounds like am interesting and informative read. A tear jerker…maybe, but probably some good info.

    Please enter me. Thanks!