MOTHER, MOTHER by Koren Zailckas

Book Quote:

“Of all the crazy that had transpired the night before, Will had felt most unsafe when he saw the way his sister eyed his mother across the dining room table. How Violet-like she’d been, glowering with her hangdog neck and hooded eyes. Anyone else might have mistaken her for someone meek and self-punishing. But Will knew the truth: Violet thought she was proof of nature over nurture. She didn’t need their mom’s loving care to survive.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky  (DEC 28, 2013)

Koren Zailckas’ Mother, Mother is a tale of psychological horror–a savage portrayal of a narcissist, Josephine Hurst, who lies compulsively, shamelessly manipulates her family, and tries to destroy anyone who crosses her. This disturbing story is told in alternating chapters by twelve-year-old William Hurst and his sixteen-year-old sister, Violet. William is mommy’s prissy little boy whom Josephine home schools (he has been diagnosed with autism and epilepsy) and infantilizes; Will is completely dependent on his mother and will do anything to stay in her good graces. Violet, on the other hand, is a rebel. She chops off her hair, takes mind-altering substances, and refuses to be intimidated by Josephine’s sick behavior. Josephine’s husband, Douglas, is, for the most part, an ineffectual bystander who gives his wife free reign. Missing from the picture is twenty-year-old Rose, whom Josephine was grooming to be a famous actress. Rose left home abruptly and never returned.

Zailckas makes our skin crawl as she reveals how dysfunctional the Hursts really are. She etches each character with a pen dipped in acid. Instead of communicating honestly, everyone plays his or her assigned role. The children are expected to act like obedient automatons, and Douglas is little more than a shadowy presence in the household. Agents from Child Protective Services visit the Hursts after William’s hand is damaged, allegedly by a knife-wielding Violet (who denies responsibility). Tensions run even higher when Violet is sent to a locked mental ward) and starts receiving mysterious messages from Rose.

Violet is the key to unlocking the secrets that she hopes will set her free. With courage, shrewdness, and the help of good friends, Violet intends to unearth damning facts that will alter everyone’s perception of what has really been going on behind the Hursts’ closed doors. At least, Violet still has a chance to escape, since she has enough self-esteem to fight for her life. The author’s understated but vivid descriptive writing, dark humor, and biting dialogue add to the novel’s impact. Ultimately, we grieve for the offspring of selfish and mentally ill parents who are incapable of offering their sons and daughters the nurturing and affection that they so desperately need. As one of Violet’s fellow patients in the psychiatric unit states, “Having a baby doesn’t make you a mother any more than buying a piano makes you Beethoven.”

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 73 readers
PUBLISHER: Crown (September 17, 2013)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Koren Zailckas
EXTRAS: Interview with Koren Zailckas
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December 28, 2013 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Family Matters, Mystery/Suspense, Psychological Suspense

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