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Review: Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

About the Book

From Koren Zailckas, author of the iconic memoir SMASHED: an electrifying debut novel about a family being torn apart by the woman who claims to love them most
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. 

Resentful of her sister’s newfound freedom, Violet turns to eastern philosophy, hallucinogenic drugs, and extreme fasting, eventually landing herself in the psych ward. Meanwhile, her brother Will shrinks further into a world of self-doubt. Recently diagnosed with Aspergers and epilepsy, he’s separated from the other kids around town and is homeschooled to ensure his safety. Their father, Douglas, finds resolve in the bottom of the bottle—an addict craving his own chance to escape. Josephine struggles to maintain the family’s impeccable façade, but when a violent incident leads to a visit from child protective services, the truth about the Hursts might finally be revealed.


If there's ever been a work that was as inspirational as it was paranoid, 'Mother, Mother' would be it. 'Mother, Mother' follows a crumbling family, held together by a cruel barbed wire mother. We see the story from the perspective of the remaining two Hurst children: one who is wrongfully institutionalized, and another who hopelessly spirals into his mother's miserable trap. 'Mother, Mother' is a slow burn, but it's deceptive and wicked wrenches will hook in the readers who stay long enough. Upon reflection, it is no longer just a story: it makes you question your own mother. What are her intentions? Is the only descriptor that comes to mind for her "evil?" Koren's razor-jabs are deceptive and sneaky and first, but as they novel comes to a close she pulls no punches in a glorious twist of karma. Shining through all this pain and pleasure is a genuinely inspirational message of hope that - even if you are unable to connect with Violet Hurst or even Will - is too important not to read. The best part about it is that she is not blatantly sentimental about it; her happy endings still have a few emotionally-irreparable holes. Koren puts so much of her heart, pain and love into 'Mother, Mother' that it's difficult not to take something away from it - even if you're running away from your mother as fast as your shaking legs can carry you.

Reviewed by Catherine Lynn

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