Linda Carroll,
Her Mother's Daughter:
A Memoir of the
Mother I Never Knew & of
My Daughter, Courtney Love

(Doubleday, 2006)

Ostensibly, the title of Her Mother's Daughter alludes to author Linda Carroll's troubled relationship with her daughter, Courtney Love. And Courtney certainly is a large force in Carroll's life, but the book is about so much more, about everything there is to do with mothering and daughtering.

Linda herself grew up in a strict Catholic household, where she was always introduced by her mother, Louella, as "my adopted daughter." Linda thought her real mother would have loved her more intensely, but at the same time had intense fears that her real mother was a bag lady with no teeth. Linda grew up feeling visible tension from Louella, who couldn't bear children of her own due to botched surgery. But when Linda had her daughters, Courtney and Nicole, she saw another side of Louella, a side of pure joy and love, and she realized that while Linda would always be "the adopted daughter," the line was blurred when it came to the grandchildren, and Louella loved them like blood.

Of course, Linda had another mother out there, a birth mother, and she didn't discover her until well after her adopted parents had passed away. It was the birth of Linda's own granddaughter, Frances Bean Cobain, that prompted Linda to search for her mother. The two slowly formed a relationship via letters (sometimes two or three in one day), and now Paula Fox, an acclaimed children's author, has fully embraced her lost daughter, even changing her author biographies to welcome Linda into her life.

This memoir is about family lines, finding oneself, self-realization and the search for spirituality. In it, Linda is able to tell her side of the story of Courtney Love. Linda raised a troubled, angry child in the days when whatever was wrong with a daughter was a reflection on the mom. Many therapists and schools rejected Courtney and told Linda she needed to look at her mothering to solve Courtney's problems. Linda finally realized, when Courtney was a teen, that she had devoted too much to Courtney, neglecting her other children in her unending (and frustrating) quest for approval from one wayward daughter.

For anyone who has followed Courtney's career or read the extensive debunking of her own mythology in the Ian Halperin/Max Wallace books, it is fascinating to hear Linda's voice. For example, Courtney claims she was made to sleep in a chicken coop in New Zealand. Seeing it from Linda's eyes, the structure was a labor of love commissioned on the recommendation of Courtney's therapist. All the siblings clamored to be let in, and it pleased Courtney to no end to have her own space on her family's farm.

Many of Linda's frustrations with psychologists, schools and reform schools echo the experience of Deborah Spungen, mother of Nancy Spungen, notorious girlfriend of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious. Spungen wrote a similar memoir about raising a troubled daughter (And I Don't Want to Live This Life), with all the blame laid on the mother, the repeated rejection from schools and therapists, and the final runaway scene, accompanied by desperate phone calls home for money and support. The most interesting coincidence is that I recall Love as a huge Sid & Nancy fan and desperately wanted to play Nancy in the 1980s movie about the pair. She ended up getting a smaller role instead.

In short, Linda Carroll is an amazing woman, with a beautiful and talented brood of children. She embodies the ideals of free-thinkers of a generation ago, having gone through several husbands, lived on communes, tried out alternate (and questionably cult-like) spirituality, adopted children, run a self-sustaining farm in New Zealand and finally settled down for a suburban life with her husband of 17 years. Read this book about mothers and daughters and reflect on your own experiences.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
8 July 2006

Buy it from