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What We Carry  By  cover art

What We Carry

By: Maya Shanbhag Lang
Narrated by: Maya Shanbhag Lang
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Publisher's Summary

“A gorgeous memoir about mothers, daughters, and the tenacity of the love that grows between what is said and what is left unspoken.” (Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk)

If our family stories shape us, what happens when we learn those stories were never true? Who do we become when we shed our illusions about the past?

Maya Shanbhag Lang grew up idolizing her brilliant mother, an accomplished physician who immigrated to the United States from India and completed her residency all while raising her children and keeping a traditional Indian home. Maya’s mother had always been a source of support - until Maya became a mother herself. Then the parent who had once been so capable and attentive became suddenly and inexplicably unavailable. Struggling to understand this abrupt change while raising her own young child, Maya searches for answers and soon learns that her mother is living with Alzheimer’s. 

Unable to remember or keep track of the stories she once told her daughter - stories about her life in India, why she immigrated, and her experience of motherhood - Maya’s mother divulges secrets about her past that force Maya to reexamine their relationship. It becomes clear that Maya never really knew her mother, despite their close bond. 

Absorbing, moving, and raw, What We Carry is a memoir about mothers and daughters, lies and truths, receiving and giving care, and how we cannot grow up until we fully understand the people who raised us. It is a beautiful examination of the weight we shoulder as women and an exploration of how to finally set our burdens down.

Praise for What We Carry

"Part self-discovery, part family history.... [Lang's] analysis of the shifting roles of mothers and daughters, particularly through the lens of immigration, help[s] to challenge her family's mythology.... Readers interested in examining their own family stories...will connect deeply with Lang's beautiful memoir." (Library Journal, starred review)

"A stirring memoir exploring the fraught relationships between mothers and daughters...astutely written and intense.... [What We Carry] will strike a chord with readers." (Publishers Weekly)

"Lang is an immediately affable and honest narrator who offers an intriguing blend of revelatory personal history and touching insight." (BookPage)

©2020 Maya Shanbhag Lang (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

What We Carry is an exquisite exploration of the boundlessness and limitations of love that makes us examine the unknowability of who we are and the strength of our bonds with those who shape us. This story is so elegantly told, with such rawness and compassion, that I fell madly in love with Maya Shanbhag Lang and her complicated, unforgettable mother and could not put this book down.” (Lori Gottlieb, New York Times best-selling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone)

“A dazzling, courageous memoir about the weight we carry as women, daughters, and mothers - and what happens when we let go. Lang takes us deep into the heart of her relationship with her mother, a brilliant psychiatrist and Indian immigrant with long-buried secrets. After a health crisis brings mother and daughter under the same roof for the first time since childhood, Lang grapples with new information about the parent she’d idolized, and realizes it's time to tell the story of her own life. What We Carry is a love letter to everyone who has swum through turbulent water before reaching the shores of selfhood.” (Chloe Benjamin, New York Times best-selling author of The Immortalists

“A profoundly moving memoir about secrets, trauma, and what happens when, for reasons beyond anyone’s control, we can no longer get what we need from those we love, or give them the things they most want from us. In exquisite prose, Maya Shanbhag Lang writes about her extraordinary mother and the cruel circumstances that complicate their relationship. At its heart, this is a book about one of the greatest gifts any parent can give a child: the power to save yourself.” (Will Schwalbe, New York Times best-selling author of The End of Your Life Book Club and Books for Living)

Featured Article: The Best Audiobooks for Moms


Moms are some of the hardest working, most resourceful, and most amazing people on this planet. The audiobooks on this list show appreciation to all the moms of this world, from new moms to single moms, from moms with adult children to moms who have lost their children. Some of these books are fictional. Some are about self-improvement. Some are personal memoirs. If you're a mom or if you know a mom who needs a listen to boost her spirits, offer reassurance, or simply speak to her, you're sure to find the right one here.

What listeners say about What We Carry

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Honest and deep

I loved the book. Author's honest and deep insights are extraordinary. Author describes the meaning beyond the said words in a beuatiful way. Author narrating the story, is a big plus for me.

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An utter delight! Great story very well narrated.

An utter delight! beautifully woven, told, and narrated story. plan to read another novel by this author. Thank you!

1 person found this helpful

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Lessons on Motherhood

This book dispenses wisdom on life and motherhood through the vulnerability of its author. Heartbreakingly beautiful & so very important.

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Beautiful story

This is a story that many experience but don't often talk about. I really liked how she shared how her mom was prepared by having long term care - so important!!! If you don't have it, look into it. You don't want to rely on the what's available with only social security. Give yourself & your family options. That's how much Maya's mom loved her kids, planning for the just-in-case.

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what a great story about Mother and daughter relationship

I loved this book. As a 50 year old, I am always reflecting on my relationship with my Mother, and now, how I am relating to my own 20 year old daughter. The little things we remember, and the BIG things we forget.

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A must listen

This book is beautiful. Vulnerable, honest, engaging and beautifully written. I am giving a copy to the women in my life who are mothers or daughters and to anyone who is watching their parents age.

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I had to stop. It was too discouraging!

This poor woman’s story of her struggles and her mom’s struggles may be helpful to some, but it seemed like a story of shame and blame. I kept hoping it would get better and lead to some resolution, but alas, maybe real life doesn’t have all happy endings.
As I listen to books not only for life lessons, but entertainment, I had to stop listening with 2 hours left. Was not learning and was not entertained.

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couldn't turn off

excellent story. love that it was read by the author with a beautiful accent. Hated for it to end.

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Beautiful story

It has been a long time since I related so much to one story. Thank you for writing and inspiring others to do the same

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Fantastic & thought provoking

I could hardly turn this book off! It is so insightful, thought provoking, and culturally interesting. Well performed, too! Highly recommended for all moms and daughters.

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  • Michelle
  • 12-19-20

authentic

A story about mother daughter relationships beautifully told with love compassion and authenticity. thankyou