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Summary

There was a time when I loved my mother. It’s shocking to imply that I stopped loving my mum because mothers always love their children and always do their best for them. Mothers are supposed to be good. But my mother wasn’t good.

Ten years ago, Helen Naylor discovered her mother, Elinor, had been faking debilitating illnesses for 30 years. After Elinor’s self-induced death, Helen found her diaries, which Elinor wrote daily for more than 50 years. The diaries reveal not only the inner workings of Elinor’s twisted mind and self-delusion, but also shocking revelations about Helen’s childhood.

Everything Helen knew about herself and her upbringing was founded on a lie. The unexplained accidents and days spent entirely on her own as a little girl, imagining herself climbing into the loft and disappearing into a different world, tell a story of neglect. As a teenager, her mother’s advice to Helen on her body and mental health speaks of dangerous manipulation.

With Elinor’s behavior becoming increasingly destructive, and Helen now herself a mother, she was left with a stark choice: to collude with Elinor’s lies or be accused of abandoning her.

My Mother, Munchausen’s and Me is a heartbreaking, honest, and brave account of a daughter unravelling the truth about her mother and herself. It’s a story of a stolen childhood, mental illness, and the redemptive power of breaking a complex and toxic bond.

©2021 Helen Naylor (P)2021 Thread, an imprint of Storyfire Ltd.

What listeners say about My Mother, Munchausen's and Me

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Not sure I feel quite as sympathetic as I’m meant to

Don’t know if it’s something in the writing or the telling of this story but I don’t feel quite as sympathetic to the author as I think I’m supposed to. Undoubtedly the author feels she’s had an unpleasant time with her mother but she does seem a bit petulant and precious in her own right.

In cases like this it’s important to break the victim cycle and the author very much sees herself as a victim. This isn’t helped by the narration.

3 people found this helpful

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Tragic

As difficult as I imagine it would be to have a mother who suffers from Munchausen's, I couldn't help but feel that the author had very little empathy for her mother who was ultimately killed by her condition. This is a mental illness, not a lifestyle choice, this woman needed help and was let down massively by health services. The author talks as if her mother chose to be like this rather than being under the grip of an all consuming mental health condition.

1 person found this helpful

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Story of a usual childhood

I’m not entirely sure that the Daughter in this story understands that it is quite usual to have a mediocre childhood.
Parenthood is difficult and this narcissistic Daughter clearly feels that her Mother should have doted on her every breath.
Whilst there are very unkind moments in the book where the Mother makes unforgivable comments these do not make her childhood one of neglect and abuse. This girl had a semi uncomfortable upbringing at worst and seriously needs to look at some other children’s who have been unthinkable.
There will be numerous events in most peoples childhoods where they feel they have been very wronged by their parents but the reality is that every parent is simply winging it, they have no idea what to do and learn the entire role on the job.
Helen’s Mother is probably one of millions of woman that had undiagnosed post natal depression which then rolled into manic depression later on - conditions that weren’t even deemed as real in the 80’s in British society.
Yes Helen’s Mum was self centred, narcissistic and rude, so was( and is ) my own Mother and millions of other peoples Mothers and so I’m afraid is Helen.
Helen, if you’re reading this- you need to seek some help in how to look forward without thinking too negatively about your Mum. She’s just a person, like the rest of us.
The only thing that would’ve made your situation better is if you told your Mum that she wasn’t ill with ME and explained that everyone else saw it was a performance. She may then have been able to assess her behaviour and learned to behave appropriately. If she hadn’t then you should have moved along with your life and let her get on with hers. It would’ve made you both happier ladies.

1 person found this helpful

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Sad story but very repetitive, seems to be a total character assassination of the author’s mother

I thought I would like this. The subject matter interests me. The author’s mother obviously had a lot of mental health issues and the author seems totally unforgiving and resentful of her. She says her mother played the victim, but so does the author. She says her mother was self-pitying but so is she! The words abuse and neglect are used a lot by the author. Some examples of this I personally think were neither. The author as a child fell over a drain and got wet tights. Is that neglect?! I personally don’t think it is. I struggled through to the end but my overwhelming thought was that Eleanor should have destroyed her diaries because her daughter has basically held up them and Eleanor to public ridicule, when it’s actually just a very sad story of mental health issues and how they affect a family and the people around them.

1 person found this helpful

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The Appitomy of survival.

Very moving and unbelievably raw. Sadly recognising aspects of my own childhood and its complex dynamics. A sad waste of not living, to feed upon the thrill of I'll health and its medical attention.
We'll done Helen for sharing, surviving and living your best life. X

1 person found this helpful

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Truly astonished

I lost count of the amount of times I rolled my eyes or outwardly said what the f*ck or even got angry for this poor lady!
This is truly worth the listen

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Fantastic but sad

A good story but sad that a daughter had been but In that position. Trapped

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Worth a listen

I enjoyed it overall although I found it rather long drawn out. What a strange, awful and fascinating woman her mother was.
I found the repetitive references to being middle class a bit irritating as I don't feel it's a point that deserves so much emphasis in the context of the woman having this condition.
She was obviously very mentally ill and that's sad but I find other reviews berating the author for not being more sympathetic to her mother pretty judgemental, her daughter is totally entitled to her feelings based on her experiences and I hope she continues well on her healing journey.

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Tedious

Two thirds through this one and I have decided to give up. To much tedioum.

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Conflicted thoughts

I think I am going to be in the minority here, in that at some point in this book, and I think it happened around half way through, I started to struggle with it in a big way. I think it was the way in which I started to become too frustrated with the author, too frustrated with how she and others just put up with what was happening and how they were treated, and too frustrated with the personality of the author.
I couldn’t actually stick with the last couple of chapters and that was annoying as it felt it took a very long time of listening to it, to get to that point.
I found some aspects unbelievable and some aspects pitiful, but the biggest problem for me…I didn’t care for the daughter, I didn’t warm to her and because of that I found myself just getting irritated with her viewpoints and personality.

This book just wasn’t enjoyable to me, but, I fully recognise that mine is just a voice and an opinion, which is not in the majority!

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  • Robin Loves Reading
  • 02-12-21

Excellent book!


I have heard quite a bit about Munchausen's by Proxy over the years, but not much about Munchausen's itself. In this memoir by Helen Naylor, we learn how her mother's decades of fake illnesses finally led to her death, and how this all had a devastating effect on Helen.

Elinor's illnesses were self-manufactured. But she kept diaries. Dozens and dozens of them over the course of fifty years. As Helen begins reading these diaries she learns so much about her mother, but even about herself as well.

Helen's life was tragic. Her mother was always ill in bed, leaving Helen to fend for herself for days at a time. This was when she was a young child. As a teenager, things became much worse for Helen. As an adult, Helen began reading these diaries and is more than determined never to ever become like her mother. She also learns what love is and how it is an unbreakable bond, even as she survived a tragic past.

I had this book review in audiobook format, and it was narrated by the author. Listening to this book had quite an impact on me. This was no easy book to read or listen to, especially because things were so tragic. Sometimes Helen read the journal entries in order, sometimes randomnly. In either case, they were more than disturbing. Now Helen herself is a mother, and she wants never to repeat her mother's mistakes. More than that, as a reader I often felt as if I were absorbing the same words that Helen was reading, and wondering what it would have been like to be in her shoes, especially when she was a child.

Many thanks to Thread and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

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  • Ashley K
  • 01-12-21

True story but reads like a thriller 😱

This was a audiobook that kept me hooked all the way through. Helen as an adult looks back on her life as a child, teen and into adult years and how everything was centred around her mom. And when things weren’t about her, how she would act to get the attention back.

I found it really interesting that Helen’s mom kept journals detailing each day in a couple of lines. When sections were read during the book you could feel the detachment from situations and the excitement if a medical professional gave her attention.

This book publishes November 25th. Thank you to the author, @netgalley and @bookouture for the advanced audio copy.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Holly Tyrer
  • 19-03-22

Couldn’t Finish It - Depressing & Frustrating

It’s a rare exception if I don’t finish a book but this book falls into that rare exception. Helen’s story is a sad one and her childhood with her mother was clearly challenging, however, as a book it came off as Helen having “victim/martyr mentality”. Her mothers diary entries did little to support the narrative around them. I can only base my review on the first half of the book since I didn’t finish it but I didn’t finish it because it droned on and on with sameness. Memoirs typically take the reader on a journey where the subject grows and evolves throughout life’s trials and tribulations. Half way through the book, Helen had grown from childhood to motherhood with little to no personal growth in relation to her mother. I went from sympathising with childhood Helen to being frustrated with adult Helen that she was still allowing herself to be mistreated and barely made any effort to move outside the mental confines her mother had laid out. I don’t recommend this book to anyone who had a turbulent childhood because it’s not empowering at all. In fact it felt downright depressing and frustrating.

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  • Elaine
  • 10-01-22

Touching memoires

Growing up with a mother that has munchausen’s and narcissistic personality disorder is too insane to believe. Every chapter revealed a deeper darker twisted cave that this woman grew up in. And reading how it doesn’t stop just because she’s grown… A very enlightening book that can hopefully be a cautionary tale for those in need. ♥️

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-01-22

Interesting but a little long…

One downside of the book is feeling like it could have been nailed down in 10 less chapters. It was mind-bending to realize the horrible health care system they had to rely upon, even as she seeks support for PTSD. I just hope Helen continues to thrive in spite of the harsh realities she faces head on with great courage. I believe she is an inspiration to the many lost souls trying to find their footing after being raised by truly crazy, abusive people.

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  • NMwritergal
  • 26-11-21

Instead, read Motherland: by Elissa Altman

Motherland: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing by Elissa Altman, got 5 (rare) stars from me. This was one star all the way through until the ending redeemed it a little.

Both authors have similar stories, though throw the whole Munchausen's thing into Naylor's story but Altman does 5 times as much in half the time. Both author's can write, but both cannot tell a story. Naylor's ability to tell the story really didn't work--until the end.

Yes, she is deserving of our sypathy/empathy, but she comes off almost as unlikable as her mother. While she is the victim, she writes the story in the "victimy" way that nobody really wants to read, still full of rancor and overuse of negative adjectives and adverbs in dialogue.

She doesn't bother to develop her husband as a character, who I assume (since they are married with two kids) was her primary support though her hellish journey--at least in her adult life.

There's way too much telling, not enough showing and worse--there was one VERY long chapter where she goes to "clear" her mother's house because her mom is moving. I kept assuming (as the chapter droned on) that Naylor was packing up her mom's house for the move. Halfway through her mother's appalling antics, ten tons of bitter dialogue, etc., I realized the author was getting the house ready to SELL--so it looked decent. Upshot is that very little gets done and it feels like an endless tirade of how truly wretched her mother is. But we already knew that. That chapter could have been 75% shorter. The whole book should have been 40 percent shorter.

I think in cases where the person the author is writing about is so horrendous, shorter is better because you really do have empathy/sympathy for the person enduring this awful situation and you just can't stand to listen anymore. And there's the frustration of Naylor's inability to stand up to her mother. Yes...reasons. but it's frustrating to listen to the same stuff over and over.

And the worst part, where it's an epic fail: At a few points the author talks about how much she loved her mother. There is NO evidence of showing or telling that would lead you to believe she loved her mother. Not one scene. Not one good thing said about her mother as it relates to their relationship. So you just have to take the author's word for the fact that she loved and idolized this horrible woman. And when Naylor is pregnant and her mom really goes off the rails and Naylor begins to catch on, she keeps wishing she had her old mother back--the one she loved so much. Again...reasons. But you can't fall back on something like, "Everyone will understand why I loved my mother. I was a kid, I didn't know any better" or whatever the reason, when you rightly paint the woman as the awful woman she is (albeit mentally ill).