The Burning Light of Two Stars

A Mother-Daughter Story

"A love letter to a mother whose deep flaws could not drown out her much deeper love."

—Wentzel Lombard, Reedsy Discovery

"A well-crafted remembrance about daring to look for love in times of frustration and fear.”

Kirkus Reviews

"The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story is a riveting tale of acceptance, forgiveness, healing, and compassion. Laura’s ability to explore complex emotions and painful realities with clarity shines through this narrative. Reading this inspiring book will give readers a chance to re-evaluate their relationships and maybe even make that one phone call they’ve been dreading for years."

—The Book Commentary

"Riveting truth-telling is a Laura Davis hallmark, and this book does not disappoint."

—Marie Hanson

"From the first page, I was fully engaged in Laura's world…I didn't want this beautiful, compelling story to end."

—Kay Taylor, author of Soul Path Way

"This masterful heart-filling book is deeply moving and wise."

—Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, therapist and author of Filling Her Shoes and Fire and Water

"I finished The Burning Light of Two Stars in a bed of tears. What an eloquent and compelling story."

—Abby Stamelman Hocky, Executive Director, Interfaith Philadelphia

"I read all night, and I do not give up sleep easily. The Burning Light of Two Stars fed my soul."

—Eileene Tejada, Ph.D. Professor of English and Anthropology at Napa Valley College

"The sincerity through which the story is conveyed took my breath away."

—Rosa-Linda Fregoso, Professor Emerita of Latin American and Latino Studies, University of California at Santa Cruz and co-editor of Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Américas

"When I got to the last page, I wanted to turn back to the beginning, and start all over again."

—Nancy Rosulek Kramer, Galt, California

"Riveting, an effortless read."

—Olivia Bethea, Atlanta, Georgia

"I can't find words for how powerfully The Burning Light of Two Stars affected me. I'm a different person after having read it."

—Toni Taylor, retired nurse

"I just finished this remarkable book today. My experience reading it was profound. I found the story compelling. I could not put The Burning Light of Two Stars down except to stop often and think about my own mother." 

—Rosilyn Nesler, Oceanside, CA

"This book inspired me to pick up the phone and call my mother for the first time in 18 years." 

—Hollye Dexter, author of Fire Season and The Shame Prom

"The vividness of the story shook me to my core…a stunning achievement."

—Etiel Herring, Santa Cruz, CA

"You'll find yourself deeply engrossed, reading hungrily until the very last page."

—Debbie Owen, RN CHPN, Los Angeles, California

"…reads like a mystery novel I couldn't wait to find out what would come next." 

—Theresa Miller, Milwaukee, WI

"The world needs this book."

—Santoshi Wagner-Anue, Santa Cruz, California

"The Burning Light of Two Stars breaks your heart open to reveal the cracks where the light gets in." 

—Jan Landry, retired hospice chaplain

"I laughed and cried, sometimes on the same page."

—Nancy E. Gertz, MS. PCC, Professional Certified Coach, Newton, MA

"… a brilliant memoir. The storytelling is compelling, poignant and heartfelt. At times gut-wrenching, at other times hilarious. A 'must read.'"

—Adrienne Drake, MD, Mission Viejo, California

"Riveting and exquisitely crafted."

—Jennifer Meyer, Eugene, Oregon

"…a heart-aching story of the estranged and enduring love."

—Dale Thielges, Founder of Side by Side: Memory Care Coaching and Consulting

"…It was truly a joy to read this book."

—Melissa Thomson, Unitarian Universalist Minister and Palliative Care Chaplain, Los Altos, California

"I felt like a witness to the unfolding of life and death and all that matters in between."

—Evelyn Hall, Soquel, California

"Compelling. What a moving story about the human condition!"

—Bonnie Pettus, Greenville, South Carolina

"A powerful story, beautifully written, The Burning Light of Two Stars explores the journey of loss and reconciliation in vivid, gripping, moving, loving detail."

—Lucie Eggleston, Columbia, South Carolina

"I highly recommend this beautifully written and inspiring book."

—Margo Fowkes, founder of Salt Water: Life After Loss

"I loved the unflinching honesty of this story."

—Kate Dreyfus, Portland, Oregon

"I loved the intimacy of this story. It brought tears to my eyes many times."

—Susan Levin, writer and artist, Berkeley, CA

"It's almost as if your own family heals as you read about Laura's determined quest to make peace with her mother."

—Betsy B. Murphy, author of Autobiography of an Orgasm

"…a must read for every daughter estranged from her mother, every grown child struggling with a sibling, every clenched tight heart that hungers to open."

—Carol Barry, Auburn, California

"This was one of the bravest books I have ever read.”

—Jill Bacharach, MA, MSW, Activist, Writer

The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story

This riveting memoir by The Courage to Heal author Laura Davis examines the endurance of mother-daughter love, how memory protects and betrays us, and the determination it takes to fulfill a promise when ghosts from the past come knocking.

When she published The Courage to Heal in 1988, Laura Davis helped more than a million women work through the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. But her decision to go public with her grandfather's incest deepened an already painful estrangement with her mother, Temme.

Over the next twenty years, from a safe distance of 3,000 miles, Laura and Temme reconciled their volatile relationship and believed that their difficult past was behind them. But when Temme moves across the country to entrust her daughter with the rest of her life, she brings a faltering mind, a fierce need for independence, and the seeds of a second war between them. As the stresses of caregiving rekindle Laura's rage over past betrayals, they threaten her intention to finally love her mother "without reservation." Will she learn what it means to be truly openhearted before it's too late?

Awards for The Burning Light of Two Stars

First Place Winner, BookLife Prize from Publisher’s Weekly: Best Memoir/Autobiography of 2021
Gold Medal, Ippy Awards, Aging/Death & Dying
Winner, Goldie Awards, Non-Fiction
Shortlist, Page Turner Awards, Memoir
Bronze Medal Winner, The Wishing Place Book Awards: Books for Adults (Non-Fiction)
Finalist, The IAN Book of the Year Awards,
Memoir and Biography/Autobiography

Praise for The Burning Light of Two Stars

“Caregiving an elderly parent, especially against the backdrop of a difficult shared past, can be a bruising spiritual ordeal. We who must travel this territory don’t need any more sentimental narratives about it. What we do need is the healing medicine of truth-telling, and Laura Davis brilliantly and generously gives it to us. I literally could not put this book down.”

—Katy Butler, bestselling author of Knocking on Heaven’s Door and The Art of Dying Well

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Read the First Five Chapters Now!


"From the first page, I was fully engaged in Laura's world…I didn't want this beautiful, compelling story to end."

—Kay Taylor, author of Soul Path Way

Subscribe to Laura’s mailing list and start reading immediately.

Praise for The Burning Light of Two Stars

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“From the opening moment when Laura Davis is called into life by her mother, to their braided, sometimes twisted, often beautiful, long life together, The Burning Light of Two Stars takes us on a journey of two unforgettable, larger-than-life characters. We are pulled into their story and their struggles and read on to know if they will find it within themselves to make peace together. A tour de force of indelible scenes woven together in an innovative structure, it seemed to me that the pages literally turned themselves. Laura Davis’s first book in nineteen years is a major publishing event, not to be missed.”

—Carolyn Brigit Flynn, author of Communion and editor of Sisters Singing and Sacred Stone, Sacred Water

Listen to a Sample of Laura Reading Her Audiobook

Listen to the excerpts below:

Yes to Mother

Click the image to the left to watch a short excerpt from The Burning Light of Two Stars.


Every story has an inciting incident, something that kicks everything into motion. Here’s part of the phone call that ignited The Burning Light of Two Stars.


When Laura was famous.

About Laura Davis

Laura Davis is the author of seven non-fiction books, including The Courage to Heal, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be and I Thought We'd Never Speak Again. Her groundbreaking books have been translated into 11 languages and sold more than 1.8 million copies. In addition to writing books that inspire and change people's lives, the work of Laura's heart is to teach. For more than twenty years, at locations around the world, she's helped her students find their voices, tell their stories, and hone their craft as writers. Laura loves creating supportive, intimate writing communities online, in person, and internationally.


Laura as the Featured Reader at
The Journal of Expressive Writing Open Mic

Praise for The Burning Light of Two Stars

Elizabeth Rosner color 2017 mod SQ

“In her willingness to dive deeply into the murky territory of a mother and daughter who have been estranged for years, Davis manages to compress a lifetime’s worth of charged memories, almost-forgotten documents, and bittersweet efforts to reconcile. The result is a richly woven narrative that goes far beyond personal revelation, offering inspiration to others who are struggling with the supremely complicated landscape of caregiving for parents near the end of life. This is not by any stretch of the imagination a “feel-good” saga; it is a beautifully written story of excruciating betrayals and enduring damage alongside hard-won compassion and nuanced acceptance.”

from the Los Angeles Review of Books, Elizabeth Rosner, author of Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory

More Praise for The Burning Light of Two Stars

"Laura Davis has written a brilliant memoir. The Burning Light of Two Stars is destined to become as much a classic as The Courage to Heal, her groundbreaking book on healing from sexual abuse. The Burning Light of Two Stars, written more than thirty years later, explores Laura's attempts to reconcile with her mother, who continued to deny that Laura had been sexually abused. Here, a mature writer looks back on the most primal and pivotal relationship in her life. Laura handles the complex emotions and interactions of mother and daughter with deep insight, clarity and compassion. Her storytelling is compelling, poignant and heartfelt. At times gut-wrenching, at other times hilarious, The Burning Light of Two Stars is a 'must read.'"

—Adrienne Drake MD, Mission Viejo, California

"I was completely captivated by this story. It was one of those books you start reading and feel as if you've stumbled on a treasure. Every night I found it hard to put down. I was hungry to always read more, to turn each page, and consume each paragraph. The story is brilliant. There is intrigue, emotion, life lessons, and a deep connection to real family life and relationships. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a good read-but especially to those living with family estrangement now or in the past."

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—Yasmin Kerkez, Founder of Moving Beyond Family Struggles

""I've read nonstop since I woke up, almost 100 pages already. It's riveting and exquisitely crafted. If I didn't have things I had to do today, I'd finish it in one sitting."


—Jennifer Meyer, Eugene, Oregon

"In this riveting memoir, Laura grapples with questions that many of us struggle with: 'How do family members stay in relationship when they can't agree on critical elements of their collective past?' 'How do families overcome past hurts when they need to show up for each other in their hour of need?' And 'Is it possible to risk loving someone you desperately want to be able to love, but who has repeatedly betrayed you?' As a palliative care doctor, The Burning Light of Two Stars put me in touch with what the caregiver experience is really like. I enthusiastically recommend this book."


—Shoshana Helman, MD, Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Redwood City, California

"Laura's story is important because it captures, with authenticity and supreme honesty, the vexed, complicated and tender mother-daughter bonds and because it doesn't hold back the daughter's ambiguity, resentments, wavering, love-hate sentiments. The sincerity through which the story is conveyed took my breath away."


—Rosa-Linda Fregoso, Professor Emerita of Latin American and Latino Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz and co-editor of Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Américas

"I quickly ran out of superlatives for The Burning Light of Two Stars because so many scenes grabbed me. From the first page, I was fully engaged in Laura's world and didn't want to put the book down. It was as if she was speaking my story, her mother a mirror of my own. I am certain this wise exploration of mother-daughter dynamics over a lifetime will resonate broadly. As I pored over its pages, I didn't want this beautiful, compelling story to end. And for me, it hasn't: Laura's memoir and all of her characters have stayed with me to this day."


—Kay Taylor, author of Soul Path Way

"In a culture that produces chasms of disconnection in our most tender relationships, and sanitizes the rawness of life, The Burning Light of Two Stars takes the reader on a journey that reconnects and rescues the beauty of life's messiest realities. It is a story of resistance and rebirth, one that provides myriad lessons on what it takes to transcend deep wounds. Laura Davis has written a brilliant, compelling book that I just couldn't put down. I read all night, and I do not give up sleep easily. The Burning Light of Two Stars fed my soul."


—Eileene Tejada, Ph.D. Professor of English and Anthropology at Napa Valley College

"This was one of the bravest books I have ever read. Laura Davis brings you directly into the heart of her crucible, again and again with power and vulnerability and a tenderness that is utterly disarming. There were times that the mirror being held up was almost too great to bear, but I simply could not stop reading and found that my heart kept opening, breaking and then piecing itself back together. This book is pure revelation."

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—Jill Bacharach, MA, MSW, Activist, Writer

"Laura Davis hits it out of the park with this epically honest and human memoir. I believe any woman will find value, wisdom, and relief in The Burning Light of Two Stars, but it is especially poignant for mothers and daughters who have struggled, are estranged, and/or are navigating reconciliation. Thankfully, more and more of us are learning that in revealing and speaking the truth, healing, even when it's messy and emotional, can take place. I dare say it's the messy and emotional healing that is the deepest. Thank you Laura Davis for this treasure of a book."

Karen C.L. Anderson

—Karen C.L. Anderson, master-certified life coach and author of Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters: A Guide For Separation, Liberation & Inspiration

“This is a book about real human conditions and connections, not at all about politics, yet for me, as I finished the book, my thoughts went to the broken connections so many today in our country are living with—so much anger and polarization such profound and intractable disagreements that have led to estrangements even from family and previously dear friends. Perhaps this book can teach us about holding on to our precious and deep human connections in spite of irreconcilable disagreements and give us hope that it might be possible, if we are willing and determined, to work toward that end.”


—Nancy J Swartz

“A heartwarming love story of resilience, reconciliation, and healing.”


—Elissa Altman, Author of Motherland: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing

"I found The Burning Light of Two Stars to be riveting, an effortless read. I'm in two book groups, and at any given time I am reading/listening to two or three books concurrently. I've put them all down for this one. It's just that good."


Olivia Bethea, Atlanta, Georgia

"A love letter to a mother whose deep flaws could not drown out her much deeper love."

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—Wentzel Lombard, Reedsy Discovery

"I just finished this remarkable book today. My experience reading The Burning Light of Two Stars was profound. I found the story compelling. The writing superb. I was drawn into Laura's life story in a deeply personal way. I could not put The Burning Light of Two Stars down except to stop often and think about my own mother. I can honestly say I have not experienced such deep thinking about my relationship with my mother in a long time, if ever."


Rosilyn Nesler, Oceanside, California

"Laura's book is a stunning achievement. I am certain The Burning Light of Two Stars will be used as a discussion vehicle with seniors, in groups dealing with mother-daughter issues, family estrangement, compassionate choices, Alzheimer's disease, and death with dignity, with a facilitator guiding discussion afterwards. Laura Davis has made a major contribution to the literature of aging, death and dying."

—Etiel Herring, Santa Cruz, California

"This chronicle of estrangement and reconciliation documenting a daughter’s slow loss of her mother to dementia and death, is really a testament to living and forgiveness. Overcoming a past fraught with misunderstandings and hostilities takes hard work—hard emotional and soul work. Davis masterfully documents this journey while giving the reader a visceral sense of the brevity of time we have in which to let compassion take root. This is a stunning book that shows how, once begun, that rootedness can be nurtured, deepened, and sustained."

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—Sue William Silverman, author, How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences

"When Laura Davis and Ellen Bass published The Courage to Heal, it emboldened a generation of survivors of incest and sexual abuse, likely contributing to the courageous voices for many who are part of today's MeToo and TimesUp movements. In The Burning Light of Two Stars, Davis allows us to know the person behind those pages, and the story behind that story. Nuanced, raw, and candid, this memoir does not designate white hat/black hat characters. Instead, it provides a topographical map through the complex landscape of the mother/daughter relationship at the heart of the story, with characters both noble and deeply flawed on both sides of the equation. This masterful heart-filling book is deeply moving and wise."

—Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, therapist and author of Filling Her Shoes and Fire and Water

"For a community trying to grasp the real and heart-wrenching truth of sexual violence, The Burning Light of Two Stars lays bare the life-altering and far-reaching impact of incest, sexual abuse and assault. It strips down to the bone the deep and aching damage trauma does not only to the individual but the family as a whole. For survivors, Laura Davis demonstrates that with unending hard work and commitment one can redefine and reconcile a relationship."

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—Crystal Emerick, Founder of Brave Space

"I've never experienced a book like this before. I was fully engrossed in every scene as if I was living it. I just couldn't put it down. I can't find words for how powerfully The Burning Light of Two Stars affected me. I'm a different person after having read it. My heart is full. Laura Davis addresses the complexity of family relationships like nothing I've ever read before."


—Toni Taylor, retired nurse

"I finished The Burning Light of Two Stars in a bed of tears. What an eloquent and compelling story."


—Abby Stamelman Hocky, Executive Director, Interfaith Philadelphia

“In Laura Davis’ much anticipated new memoir, The Burning Light of Two Stars, we meet two flawed and magnificent women, initially and conveniently well-separated between east and west coasts, then thrust into the same small city as Davis’ mother invites herself three thousand miles to die in proximity to the daughter she has long berated. So interrupts Davis’ then “well ordered life.” Davis gnaws at the bone of her maternal discontents, as we watch her do the hard and honest work toward an intimate reconciliation. ‘I’d become who I was in opposition to her,’ Davis writes. ‘Who would I become without her?’ We find out as Davis pulls us inside where she invites, anticipates, backtracks, and hopes something new will bloom. As in the best memoirs, I learned, I grew, I questioned, I contemplated, I changed. Buy this book because it’s Laura Davis and she’s already changed our world once with The Courage to Heal but read it to witness and absorb a guide to finding peace with one challenging, complicated person with whom you long to reconcile. Vividly, honestly, and vulnerably written. I couldn’t put it down. A tour de force!”

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—Gretchen Cherington, author of Poetic License, A Memoir

“I first learned of Laura’s work when she published The Courage to Heal more than thirty years ago. As a young therapist, it was a roadmap for treating so many of my clients. Now, three decades later, I found her memoir to be another account of courage because of Laura’s willingness and determination and kindness and ability to look at her own blind spots. The Burning Light of Two Stars has us go deep, giving us the gift, the reminder of just how complex we humans really are. At first, I cringed at the terrible behavior of Laura’s mother, Temme, but as the book unfolded, I grew to understand and love her. Isn’t this the experience we all long for, especially these days? What a profound relief it is when we finally bridge the seemingly insurmountable divide of the human heart. On top of all of that, The Burning Light of Two Stars is beautifully written. I just love reading a book in which I want to pluck sentences out and keep them—each word a gem, placed just so.”


—Marian Oliker

Praise for The Burning Light of Two Stars


"Laura Davis is a brilliant writer. Her words are a work of art. I urge anyone with an appreciation of a good storyline and exquisite writing to pick up this book. The Burning Light of Two Stars is one of the most moving memoirs of our time and belongs in the list of top ten memoirs ever written. Stellar. Bravo, Laura Davis."

—Lynne White


“When Laura Davis was 14 with newly sprouted breasts, her turn came for a ritual that faced every Davis girl at puberty. In the presence of the family, she should lift her shirt and display her breasts to her chortling maternal grandfather. Laura refused. Said her mother, on fire with indignation, ‘Do you have to be so unpleasant? We all did it.’

“Laura's revulsion had deep roots. Her grandfather had sexually abused her, an experience so shameful that she suppressed the memory until well into adult life. When she finally told her mother, Temme Davis denied that any such thing could have happened. Temme cast her lot with "Poppa," betraying the rebel daughter whom she accused of crossing her at every turn.

In her riveting new memoir, THE BURNING LIGHT OF TWO STARS, Laura Davis tells the story of their long estrangement and hard-won reconciliation--incomplete yet astonishing because for so long it had seemed inconceivable. If Alzheimer's hadn't swallowed Temme Davis, forcing Laura to become her conflicted caregiver, maybe they'd have broken more ground. Maybe. Some writers try to shave the ragged edges off a life. Not Laura Davis. She lets you feel the weight of the unrealized and unanswered.

“I don't read memoir to learn what happened to someone--no matter how hair-raising or top-THIS extraordinary. Events don't add up to a meaningful story. I want to walk beside the writer as she reckons with what happened, or failed to happen, or didn't happen quite as she had always told herself it did. To write searchingly about your life is to discover how much more there is to know. Laura thought she understood her struggle with a narcissistic, gaslighting mother. Then she dove into the letters they exchanged in the silent years. Another Temme emerged--brave, exuberant, loving. The love she offered fell short of Laura's hopes, yet survived their hardest battles.

“Many readers will remember Laura Davis for THE COURAGE TO HEAL, the mega-selling book that launched a public conversation about sexual abuse and made her a hero to survivors. This memoir lets you be her witness to private conversations in which mother and daughter reveal their bruised, yearning selves, pause by pause. A writer doesn't need a brush with death to build suspense. Laura Davis proves it.

“I could say more. The title, mysteriously perfect. The final scene, which left me thinking, ‘I can't believe she did this," and then "But what a gift that she did, and captured it all in words.’ Why don't you just see for yourself?”

—Rona Maynard, author of My Mother’s Daughter and former editor-in-chief of Chatelaine

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“I finished The Burning Light of Two Stars, and after a week of feeling unsettled by your rummaging around in my closets, rattling old handwritten letters, and snatching the duct tape off my heart.

This is what I think of your book: Incredible. So close to the bone it hurts and heals. What grace. What brass ovaries! So many times I read my own thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in your pages. Sometimes my very words. The universal daughter-mother struggle. The universal quest for ultimate individuation, i.e. the Impossible Dream. The inescapable conditioning that subconsciously drives our lives and causes us to suffer. The possibility of compassionate understanding of self and mother.

This is a really, really good book, and a really, really good book is never just the author’s story. It’s the reader’s as well and you left room for that in the commonalities, the unexplored, the unresolved. All of those pulled me into your story, and deeper into my own. That’s why it will be a beloved book. Mine is already dog-eared.

The care you took with telling both stories shines through. I loved the format which wasn’t a straight march because life isn’t. In some ways it mirrored the back and forth of your relationship, the messiness. It countered the way we think we have all the time in the world.

It’s a heart book, Laura. A book of humility, courage, respect and love.

With gratitude for what it must have taken to write it, deep bow.”

—Charlotte Wilkins

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