Surviving Ophelia: Mothers Share Their Wisdom in Navigating the Tumultuous Teenage Years

Surviving Ophelia by Cheryl Dellasega, a clinician at Penn State's College of Medicine and a mother of three, provides a community for mothers who, like she, have the often bewildering and unnerving task of raising a teenage girl (an Ophelia) in trouble. By describing her own heartbreaking experience and compiling the stories and poems of hundreds of mothers across the country, Dellasega paints a picture of lost teenage girls and their mothers' fights to save not only their relationships, but often their daughters' lives. The book succeeds because the mothers describe distressing times candidly and openly, not in hushed tones often used when relaying deep family issues. In response to Mary Pipher's bestselling Reviving Ophelia, these mothers share their thoughts and feelings on a multitude of topics including eating disorders, fitting in, depression, institutions, rebellion and boundaries, the absence or presence of fathers, and the "crazy soup emotions" of love, anger, and frustration. Surviving Ophelia is evidence that each teenager's situation is unparalleled, and Dellasega does not offer any finite solutions to the tumultuous teen years. Instead, the author and mothers provide parenting ideas, from the practical to the radical, and measure their own success and failure. In one letter titled, "Tears from a Rose," mother Rose states, "What I do for a living, what my real name is, and where I live seem irrelevant. What defines me is the hell I've lived through, and what I've learned along the way... I'd like to help other parents avoid some of the traps I fell into and find some of the helpful things I discovered." The end of this book provides an appendix where mothers can find help for themselves and for their troubled daughters. It also includes letters from some of the mothers' daughters. These Ophelias describe challenges from their own points of view and share how they're feeling currently. --Rhonda Langdon