Title: Mother, Mother
Author: Koren Zailckas
Publication Date: 9-17-13
Genre: Literary Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Adult
Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for honest review
Josephine Hurst has her family under control. With two beautiful daughters, a brilliantly intelligent son, a tech-guru of a husband and a historical landmark home, her life is picture perfect. She has everything she wants; all she has to do is keep it that way. But living in this matriarch’s determinedly cheerful, yet subtly controlling domain hasn’t been easy for her family, and when her oldest daughter, Rose, runs off with a mysterious boyfriend, Josephine tightens her grip, gradually turning her flawless home into a darker sort of prison.
Mother, Mother is a dark novel about the twisted familial relationships between the emotionally unstable Josephine, Douglas, Rose, Violet, and Will. The chapters alternate in perspectives between the 12-year-old Will who has Asperger’s and epilepsy, and 16-year-old Violet who has just been admitted to a psychiatrist hospital after a psychotic episode involving drugs and a knife.
While I eventually found this book to be very interesting and engrossing, it took me about 100 pages into the novel to really get into it. I couldn’t really figure out the “point” of the novel, so I had a hard time becoming engaged with it. But I wouldn’t say that I ever discovered the point. This book was written like it was was supposed to be a psychological thriller, but it didn’t exactly fit into that vein. There were a few twists and turns that were somewhat surprising, but the book had a lackluster finale and not a lot of shock value. I think that the ending was supposed to be more surprising, but it was fairly obvious where it was heading, so I found the small revelations placed here and there throughout the book the ones that were more unpredictable and enjoyable.
“With a mom like theirs, it was impossible not to equate becoming a mother with becoming a monster.”
What I did like about this book was the relationships between the characters and, mostly, the characters themselves. I found them all to be very well-written and extremely entertaining to read about…in kind of a sick way. These characters were horrifically realistic. It was too easy to imagine these people functioning in the real world, specifically Josephine. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that there are people like this out there. Obsessed with maintaining a picture-perfect family image, Josephine requires that all members of her family conform to her prescribed ideals and play along with her, regardless of the emotional toll it takes on them. But as the book progresses, more and more is revealed about her psychiatric state of mind, and the depths she would go to to protect that flawless image.
“Violet thought Will would one day self-fulfill his mother’s prophecy exactly the way the rest of the Hursts had. Josephine said Rose was “lost” and Rose had gotten lost. Josephine liked to accuse Violet of being “crazy,” and out of nowhere, Violet had flipped her shit. Josephine treated Will like he was an extension of herself, and it seemed only a matter of time before he started treating people the same way she did.”
I liked that we got to see the story from the perspectives of Violet and Will. They are two very different characters seeing the same situation from contrasting perspectives. I found Violet to be more relatable than Will, but Will was also more interesting. And I appreciated how the author maintained the tone of the book throughout the entire thing, including the ending. There is no “happily-ever-after” in this situation…there is just surviving.
So, while I did end up enjoying Mother, Mother, I wish that the beginning had been more engrossing, and that it had been more of the thriller I think it was trying to be. But, overall, I really liked how well-written it is, and how realistic and entertaining the characters were.