"In this feminist memoir Gail Straub memorializes her mother’s unfulfilled life. As she untangles these threads, she processes her grief over her mother’s death.... For all those interested in women’s issues and spirituality. "
—Library Journal Book Review
"Gail Straub challenges the reader to look closely into one’s life to discover, through inward reflection, the 'unbound flame' that is in us all. She does this by opening the window into her complex, private, and deeply compelling stories. Straub shows that life is not just about the daily task of existing through the empirical senses but searching for authenticity and gaining feminine wisdom through exploration of inner realities.
"—ForeWord Magazine Book Review
"Returning to My Mother's House is Gail Straub's declaration of love, compassion, and understanding for her mother, for herself, for all women. It is an excellent book for older women who need to look back and heal. It's also an excellent book for young women who would better understand themselves, their mothers, and the world in which they live."—Kathy Waller, Story Circle Book Reviews, reviewing books by, for, and about women
"The combination of the book along with the discussion material provided on the website, create a powerful transformational tool for women who are seeking to reconnect to the wisdom they know lies within. I highly recommend it, especially as reading material for a book group."—BlogHer, the Community for Women Who Blog, Rachelle Mee-Chapman
"An intimate, candid, and powerfully affecting memoir, Returning to My Mother's House is also an inspiring guide for all women who have lost touch with their innate female wisdom. Through tales of her travels around the globe to Africa, Bali, Russia, China, and Ireland, her mother's ancestral home, Gail shares her search to balance her fulfilling and demanding empowerment work and social activism with a rich, rewarding inner life."—Kat Barrett, WomensRadio
"This is a wonderfully crafted narrative that takes readers from her mother’s too-short life into her own battles and brilliance via self-examination. Written in a smooth voice that shifts through time and conflict, Straub’s return to her roots is a transcendental journey that speaks to the desire and potential of women everywhere.
"—Metro Spirit, Augusta’s Independent Voice
"Straub’s luminous story is for anyone who has ever struggled to build and sustain an interior life in our driven and fast paces society, and for mothers and daughters everywhere.
"—Chicago Monthly Aspectarian
"In this intensely personal memoir, Empowerment Institute co-director and bestselling author Straub explores her complex relationship with her mother, a rebellious artist who lost her sense of self. She also examines her own life choices, including a conscious decision not to have children, channeling her maternal energies into other forms of nurture."
—Chronogram: Hudson Valley Arts, Culture, Spirit
"Many years after her mother’s premature death, Straub embarked on a soul-searching mission, traveling to Africa, Bali, Russia, China, and Ireland, and everywhere finding that women felt much like her: longing for sacred wisdom. She tells her story poetically, depicting the difficulties faced by anyone-male or female –struggling to maintain a rich interior life in our times."
"Unraveling the narrative of motherhood in all its forms, Returning to My Mother's House: Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine is a book of enormous transformation, intimacy, and heart."—Eve Ensler, founder, V-Day, author, The Vagina Monologues and Insecure At Last
"Returning to My Mother’s House is Gail Straub's poetic, heartfelt, and very personal journey story, but it is also my story, your story, and the story of a culture in desperate need of 'taking back the wisdom of the feminine.' Enough history, we need her-story! We need books like Gail's—brave tales of the feminine, lost and found. Reading this book encouraged me to go back and heal aspects of myself and my relationship with my mother. I found myself dreaming of my mother, looking at old picture albums, reading letters we wrote to each other over the years, and thinking about her—her unrealized dreams, her abandoned self, her frightened heart, and the legacy of love and loss that she passed on to me. I came away from the adventure of reading Returning to My Mother's House full of hope for the restoration of the feminine in each of us, and our world." —Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder, Omega Institute, author, Broken Open and The Seekers Guide
"Gail Straub’s new book, Returning to My Mother’s House, is a book for mothers and daughters everywhere. Gail’s thirty-year journey is a testament to the fierce power of the mother-daughter bond as a healing force in our world. This book both encourages and challenges us to take back our female wisdom, our emotional intelligence, our interior lives, our creativity and imagination, and our willingness to live with death as a wise advisor. More than anything Gail’s book is a prayer that we take back this wisdom before it is too late for both our human family and our earth."— Immaculee Ilibagiza author, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
"Returning to My Mother's House is an intimately personal yet universal book. It's a rousing tale of a gutsy woman's adventures, her worldwide travels, her caring work, and her trials, tribulations, and joys. Above all, it is a daughter's tribute to her own mother, to all our mothers, and to feminine wisdom and power."—Riane Eisler, author, The Chalice and the Blade and The Real Wealth of Nations
"In Jungian psychology, the house is often seen as a symbol of the self. Gail Straub’s return to her mother’s house is the archetypal journey of the self back to the sources of its deepest wounds, as well as the sources of its deepest wisdom and healing. It is the kind of 'return' that can only be made with the wisdom of time and perspective—and still it requires courage and persistence to take what Jung called the night sea journey into the fertile conflicts of our early houses. In her new book, Returning to My Mother’s House, Straub bravely takes this journey for all of us—and what reader, having entered into the journey alongside this engaging soul, does not come out more whole?"—Stephen Cope, director, Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living; ;author, Yoga and the Quest for the True Self and The Wisdom of Yoga
"Gail Straub’s memoir, Returning to My Mother’s House: Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine, shines as a model for a life lived outside convention. Here the remarkable Straub, who has helped thousands of people achieve their dreams with her ground-breaking Empowerment Institute, examines the dreams of her ebullient almost-artist mother, sadly unfulfilled in her shortened life. By drawing her mother’s portrait in words bright with detail, Straub finds the feminine principle that she almost unwittingly sacrificed in her own life. The contrasts between the former bohemian, upward-striving mother and the international innovator daughter are both sharp and tender. As Gail Straub uncovers the forgotten layers hiding what her mother gave her, she discovers that her mother’s circumscribed life prepared her for the vast changes she has been able to make in the journeys of others. In powerful and profound ways, this extraordinary woman has lived her mother’s dream."—Molly Peacock, poet, president emerita, Poetry Society of America, author, Paradise, Piece by Piece
"As too many women in leadership positions know, the flame of passion and purposefulness can be extinguished by workaholism which is often rooted in a neglect of our undervalued feminine. In this biography and teaching guide, Gail Straub courageously names the undiscussable shadow aspects of achievement that have accompanied her enormous success as a global activist and beloved spiritual guide. She painfully acknowledges the legacy of her mother's lost connection to her heart's desires as a woman who extinguished her feminine voice. Gail takes us on spellbinding travels of both personal and global proportions to retrieve her own lost feminine and reveals her own nature as an unbounded flame. Most poignantly, we as readers see Gail's bold paint strokes of vivid imagery as her mother's artistic expression finally finding its beautiful canvass. Gail leaves us with the kindling needed to fiercely yet gently examine what is required to stop, be still, and illuminate the quiet wisdom needed to lead in these urgent times." —Ellen Wingard, editor, Enlightened Power: How Women Are Transforming the Practice of Leadership
"A good book gifts its readers with an exquisite map of the human heart, and Gail Straub’s Returning to My Mother’s House does exactly that. In this healing story Gail has written an eloquent and compelling narrative of a daughter’s thirty-year journey to reconnect with her late mother’s authentic self, and the discovery of her own powerful feminine spirit in the process. This book addresses so many questions of motherhood that spoke deeply to me: choosing to be, or not to be, a mother; looking for a mother; and finding a mother. Gail’s journey takes her literally around the world but ultimately returns her to her childhood home, to the original drawer of her heart-map with the imprints of love and wisdom left there by her mother. And as her story continues Gail expands upon these imprints, and creates her own empowered map. This book honors not only Gail and her mother’s spirit but also the feminine power in all of us."—Loung Ung, author, First They Killed My Father and Lucky Child
"Returning to My Mother’s House is a sacred incantation of celestial feminine remembrance. Gail has written so tenderly, and so courageously about the crisis and opportunity that confront us all. In these tumultuous times, our mother planet is beseeching women of all ages, cultures, and dimensions to awaken, reintegrate, and honor our most precious gifts in service of ourselves and the most high. As one who has “lost” her mother at a young age, I experienced this book as an act of love, faith, and healing. It is a mantra for the reclaiming of our divine feminine purpose. I am so grateful for this deeply personal yet profoundly universal journey."—Rha Goddess, artist, activist, author, We Got Issues
"The journey to reclaim lost aspects of one’s past and so unfold into greater wholeness is a classical and dynamic theme. In this beautifully written memoir, Gail Straub brings this process home to us in poignant and lucid ways. Her story will inspire many to look for the spiritual treasures in their own history. Returning to My Mother's House is an important and nourishing book."—Gunilla Norris, author, Inviting Silence and Simple Ways: Towards the Sacred
Read More in the PDF
This study guide is intended to help readers discuss and understand their own relationship to the many themes involved in taking back the wisdom of the feminine. It follows the four major phases of the book: the imprint of the feminine from our mothers, the loss of our female wisdom, how we take back our wisdom, and finally how we pass on our wisdom and protect the lineage of the feminine.
Reading Group Study Guide