Monday, 17 August 2015

Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

All is not well with the Hurst family. There is gentle teenage daughter Violet, whose experiments with fasting and drugs land her in a psychiatric ward; eight-year-old Will who is smart, funny and caring but has already been labelled autistic and is being home-schooled; and mother Josephine, whose subtly controlling and seemingly innocent manoeuvres may just be the source of everyone else's despair. And then there's Rose, the sister who got away. Tired of Josephine's interferences, Rose ran away from home years earlier and hasn't been heard from since. But as her mother's intentions become more terrifyingly clear, Violet begins to wonder whether something far, far worse happened to her older sister.

There is so much that goes in to the story of Mother, Mother, it is a truly layered plot, but at the centre of it is the Hurst family; I have not read of a family quite as dysfunctional as the Hurst's.

Mother, Josephine, can only be described as a narcissist; Father, Douglas, is a recovering alcoholic and very much distant from his family; eldest daughter, Rose, seemingly upped and left the first chance she got; youngest daughter, Violet, is rebelling from her home life in some harmful ways; and son, Will, is pretty much brainwashed by his mother. There is a lot going on within the Hurst household, not a lot of communication happening between members of the family, and secrets in abundance.

The story unfolds with alternating chapters from Violet and Will. Although the chapters aren't written in first person we get a good sense of the family and the current goings on. I think the fact that the children are our eyes is a well thought out story telling method as you truly feel the hold and damage that mother, Josephine, is having on her children and family as a whole.

Upon starting out reading, we learn that Violet has been sent to a psychiatric hospital after attacking her brother Will. From there the overall family situation is developed, allowing us to learn a little background knowledge of the Hurst's, before the mystery element of the story picks up. Did Violet truly hurt her brother and why has eldest daughter Rose decided to show her face again now?

I mentioned in my July Reading Wrap Up that Mother, Mother took me a while to get through - at one point I even contemplated abandoning the book all together. The reason for my lack of interest initially was the pace, I found the first 100 or so pages to be very slow, and it didn't entirely hold my attention. At about the 130 page mark my attention peeked a little, and then it was a good 100 pages more before I was fully interested. Just to note, my edition of Mother, Mother is 362 pages long.

It's very hard to talk about Mother, Mother as I did come away with mixed feelings. The one thing I cannot fault in this book is the characters. The characters, their personalities, and the way in which they hold themselves in life is very strong. The characters feel on point and act as if one might in real life. Yes, Violet actively sought a dangerous path in life, and yes, Douglas basically abandoned his family for a good while and decided to take action too late, and yes, Will is a good boy turned bad, but you can see why the characters have gone down the routes they have given the head of the family, mother, Josephine. Having said all of that, I would've liked to know more about Josephine herself; why is she the way she is? What is her back story?

There are elements within Mother, Mother that you see coming, and parts where you want to roll your eyes at the actions, and even passages that you skim read to an extent because things are being repeated but reworded, however there are some really well written extracts and you can't deny that the author has done her research in to certain illnesses and disorders. If you own Mother, Mother or see it at the library, I'd recommend reading however in hindsight I wouldn't purposefully seek out this book.



  1. I've never heard of this book but it does sound interesting, if a little undeveloped. That cover is lovely though.

    1. The overall plot of Mother, Mother is one that keeps you on your toes - but I tend hope for a little more from it.

      I also like the cover design!


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