Mother, Mother: A Novel by Koren Zailckas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Koren Zailckas has written a book that is sometimes difficult to read, but it's fascinating from beginning to end. The reason it can be difficult to read is because of how horrific the Mother of this title is. She can be described as manipulative, deceitful, malicious... even evil, but those words still do not capture the irreparable harm she causes to those she professes to love most. She has stolen her children's lives from them by causing each of the three of them unimaginable stress, self-doubt, and a distrust for each other that has no basis in fact.
Zailckas tells the story of the Hurst family in chapters alternating between the middle child, Violet, and the youngest child, William. The Mother, Josephine is a strong, overpowering influence in her children's lives, and it is through Josephine that the reader gains perspective about each of the three children. It is obvious from the start that the oldest child, Rose, no longer lives with the Hurst family. The assumption is that Rose ran away from home to live with her boyfriend, and she wants no further communication with her family. She leaves behind her brother William, who Josephine says is autistic as well as an epileptic, and Viola, who is difficult and unmanageable. No one questions Josephine's assessment of her children's behavior; however, after a while it becomes obvious that Violet is not content to allow her Mother to define her in such negative ways. Josephine handles that by admitting Violet to a mental health facility, and her intent is to keep Violet there as long as possible.
As the story progresses, doubts are raised about Josephine's maternal abilities. Eventually, Douglas, the father of the Hurst family, begins to become more active in his children's lives, and he becomes aware that something is terribly wrong with what he has come to believe about his whole family. It then becomes a matter of whether Douglas can have any influence over what happens to his family next, or is his involvement too little, too late.
The tension builds as Josephine begins to lose control of the family. She is more than capable of taking drastic action to maintain her role as head of the family; the question becomes how far is she willing to go and who is she willing to destroy to keep up the facade of family life she's owned up to that point. I was not prepared for the answers to those questions, even though I thought nothing at the end would surprise me. I was raised by a woman just like Josephine. I know the thought process that goes on behind that cunning front the outside world gets to see while the real evil goes on behind the mask of an monster posing as a caring Mother. There cannot be a happy ending to a story like this one. Instead there is more of a sense of relief that with the support and help of caring individuals who understand that such sociopathic people do exist in this world, people who live under the reign of terror of such evil individuals do have a chance to survive and live far better lives.
I rated this book with 5Stars. It was so well written I would highly recommend it to adult readers of all ages.
I received my copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for which I agreed to do a review and post it at my reading sites.
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