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Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite
Momma’s Black Refrigerator by Florence Tannen is an intriguing title and I was curious to find out more. This memoir tells of the young Florence growing up in a tiny apartment with her mother Blanche, her elder sister by 8 years, Lilian, and her father Abe. She has a close relationship with her father and adores him. She is also close to her mother, but reading the book as an adult we see immediately that Blanche's responses are inappropriate to the questions and Flori is always asking questions. Typical of the days of the silent generation, these are not answered and the avoidance leads to a lot of frustration on the part of the author. Florence describes two quite traumatic incidents which lead to her being teased at school. I could also sense her mother’s frustration, shown in her desperation in redecorating the kitchen. As the book progresses, we see Blanche fall deeper into dementia until she is removed from the house in front of the children and placed in a mental asylum. The family visits her many times and sometimes she is lucid but on other occasions, especially after her shock treatment, she ignores them. Florence struggles to grow up without a mother, the untidy, carefree child so different from Lilian and Abe who lead ordered, organized lives. They clash on many occasions.
Reading Momma's Black Refrigerator by Florence Tannen is both a harrowing and uplifting experience. This is a beautifully written book which takes you into the heart of the family. I bonded with Florence and felt for her. I wanted to explain all the strange behavior and answer all of her questions. Her mother Blanche says she was born in 1908 and subjects such as mental illness were not discussed in those days. Many of the events described in the book are heartbreaking, as Florence transitions from a young girl to a teenager with an interest in boys, movies, and sex. I would have loved the book to be longer and followed Florence’s life further. She jumps from the ‘teenage maturity revelation’ several years forward and left me with a lot of questions. This sad but memorable story is worth every one of five stars.