All My Mother’s Lovers, written by Ilana Masad and published in May of 2020, is a surprisingly good read with radical roots. What I thought was going to be a murky, average young adult book- was a hidden gem. With a solid story and a very interesting opening line, this is a must-read novel. Despite being so new in the world of writing, Mossad looks to stir the pot. AMML covers topics such as sexuality, the LGBTQ+ spectrum, substance abuse, and other controversial topics in today’s media while focusing on the base of the story.
The story opens with a lady named Maggie who is receiving a phone call from her brother. Her brother calls to tell her that their mom, Iris, has died in a car accident. Grief-stricken, Maggie travels home to take care of the funeral preparations and her father. When going through her mother’s final will and testament, Maggie finds five different letters, each addressed to a man, each of whom Maggie does not know. In hopes of finishing her mom’s final wishes, she sets out to hand-deliver each letter.
In the beginning of the novel, Masad notes that Maggie is closer to her father than she is with her mother. This is because Iris has a clear distaste of Maggie’s sexual preference. The reader quickly finds that this is hypocritical- as each letter is delivered to one of her mothers’ lovers. Maggie sends herself in a tailspin scenario as she tries to grasp who her mother truly was.
Maggie finds herself contemplating her own relationship with her girlfriend, the idea of the “perfect marriage”, and her mother’s identity as she is not who she seemed to be. Maggie continues this journey all while trying her best to hide her mother’s secrets from her younger brother and her distraught father, Peter. After a few sessions of getting high and drunk, Maggie returns home to deliver the last letter. Unfortunately for her, she wrecks on the way. Maggie feels defeated and the wreck leaves the whole family on edge, as they almost lost Maggie within a week of her mother’s death.
In an awkward turn of events, the man with the final letter comes to her family’s home as part of the Jewish funeral her mother is having. Noticing the tension once the man leaves, Peter asks what is going on. Hesitantly, Maggie tells her father about all of her mother’s lovers. However, her father already knows. He tells Maggie that he identifies as asexual and that her mother was polyamorous, in order to fill her own sexual needs that he could not fulfill.
Maggie’s girlfriend comes over while Maggie is healing from her wreck and realizes that her relationship is exactly what it needs to be. She also decides that her parent`s relationship dynamic was exactly what they needed it to be as well. Maggie ultimately comes to grasp who her mom was and use that information to refine her own identity as a person.
While this story is not necessarily true, there are some harsh realities that the book faces. While this never happened in the book, Maggie said that as a teen she was worried that her mom would kick her out since she was gay.
Sadly, this is a real part of today’s culture. Only half of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (46 percent) and transgender people (47 percent) feel able to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity to everyone in their family. Almost one in five LGBTQ people (18 percent) have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.
Peter was always supportive of Maggie and her lifestyle, and while Iris did not agree with Maggie’s sexual preference, she did not disown her in any way. Masad discreetly writes this into the book as an example of how parents should react to their child, whether they are supportive of their child’s decision or not.
Before Maggie found out that her mother was polyamorous and her father was asexual, Maggie thought Iris was cheating on Peter. Cheating and being gay are both things that the world does not fully agree/disagree with, but they are both very common. A total of 67.3 percent of male cheaters reported cheating on their spouses more than once, compared to 53.5 percent of women.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has a narrow mindset, as this book does not shy away from breaking the rules of being a traditional, “normal” family. As a fair warning, there are several mature scenes throughout the book, some of which have colorful vocabulary and vivid descriptions. Nevertheless, these scenes are necessary to build up the colorful story Masad has created.