If My Heart Had Wings by Nadine Taylor


If My Heart Had Wings
Nadine Taylor
Taylor-Fox Publishing, 2018

4 Stars


“Well,” she sighed, “I guess I always knew I was going to have to tell you girls someday…”

When a child discovers there’s more to their parents than what they know, the experience can be earth shattering. So it was with Nadine Taylor as she discovered one day her mother lived a life before she had children. For any child (young or adult), it is difficult to imagine your parents existing as their own individuals, as persons outside of yourself or, at least, in no relation to you at all. Learning about who your parents were before you can and often does make your parents more real, the deeper and fuller human beings they’ve always been. When Taylor discovers a photo of her mother in a wedding dress from her first marriage, she pulls the veil away from what she thought she knew.

For twenty years, Nina Raff keeps the death of her first husband to herself. Not so much secret as simply unspoken, she revises her life in light of the lost and then proceeds to not look back. Yet when her 13 year-old daughter discovers physical evidence of the life her mother led that never really got started, things must be explained.

The Greatest Generation all have their secrets. What their Baby Boomer children think they know or knew about their mothers and fathers can often suddenly change. This is what makes If My Heart Had Wings such a compelling read. It doesn’t fetishize secrets but rather evokes a time, a time when Nina Raff was about to become someone completely different than who she did. Such a work is endlessly fascinating and what makes traditional memoir so compelling.

What Taylor is able to accomplish with her book is a story of mothers and daughters coming to see each other as individual women define by more than their family status but thanks to it intimately and irrevocably tied to each other. It is this kind of connection at the heart of personal history, family lineage, and stories of who you are or where you come from. It doesn’t shy away from exploring and contextualizing the darkness lurking within a family (alcoholism, domestic abuse) as it traces a love story which seemingly inevitably and miraculously led to Taylor. 

Many readers will find If My Heart Had Wings compelling. Taylor is an experienced hand having written tens of thousands of words and mastered a conversational yet detail resonant style of prose. I know I can hear my mother and grandmother in her writing, musing and conversing. Reading the younger Taylor draw the story out of her mother while recollecting what she as a teenage-girl in the late 60s was experiencing was fascinating. We see just how through her mother’s story Taylor was able to understand the past through more than mere school books and how she was able to situate herself at the time and into the future. This kind of personal writing is always stunning and beyond mere subjectivity as it gives readers a sense of what they can understand as well of themselves and others.


About the Author

Nadine Taylor - low res

Nadine Taylor is the author, editor and ghostwriter of more than twenty books in the genres of memoir, health, and business, including New York Times bestsellers and national bestsellers. After twenty years as an author, she has finally written her own story, a fascinating memoir about her discovery, at age 13, of her mother’s secret marriage to a pilot killed during World War II, and how he continued to “reappear” in their lives for decades, even long after her mother had passed on.


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