Review: Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

mother-mother“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.

Written with the style, dark wit and shrewd psychological insight that made SMASHED a bestseller, Zailckas’s first novel is unforgettable. In the spirit of classic suspense novels by Shirley Jackson and Daphne DuMaurier, MOTHER, MOTHER is the terrifying and page-turning story of a mother’s love gone too far, and the introduction of a commanding new voice in fiction.” – Publisher Summary

OK, y’all, I’m going to start off right here with a warning:  this novel contains graphic, detailed scenes of emotional and psychological abuse. If you have unresolved Mommy issues, you want to prepare yourself before reading this book, or maybe you’ll want to set it aside for later. As it was, it was slightly uncomfortable for myself, and I’m pretty much able to handle whatever is thrown at me in a book. So. Beware. Despite this, Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas is an eerily captivating and emotional novel that will hit you right in the chest. It was truly an un-put-down-able book, and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. Yes, y’all – it’s that good.

Meet the Hurst family: Josephine (Mommy Dearest), Douglas (Daddy), twenty-year-old Rose (Big Sis), sixteen-year-old Violet (Little Big Sis). and twelve-year-old William.  Rose is on the periphery of the family, having run away over a year ago. Violet is the black sheep, having shaved her head, gone on a death fast, and getting high with her friends at every opportunity. William is homeschooled due to his Asperger’s and epilepsy (both of which he may or may not have…). Daddy Douglas is a programmer and an alcoholic who hides in his office as much as possible. That leaves Josephine. Ah, Josephine… that crazy, domineering, narcissistic Mama.

As our story opens, Violet has just been committed to a psychiatric facility. Josephine has accused her of stabbing William while being high on hallucinogenics. Oddly, Violet has no memory of this. Douglas was drunk and blacked out during the event and so has no memory of what occurred. William and Violet reveal their memories of that evening erratically over several chapters (the two are the alternating narrators of the novel). As they come closer and closer to the truth of that eventful night, more and more secrets threaten to come to the surface, as each family member begins to question Josephine’s motives and actions.

Mother, Mother is an insane roller coaster ride that once you board, you will not be able to leave until the very end. This is a novel that will draw you in and spit you out in little pieces once it’s done with you. I would comment on the quality of Zailckas’s writing, but I can’t because the story itself shines so brightly that you see nothing else. Many people profess to many a shocking moment during the novel; I have a little experience with Crazy Mamas, so I wasn’t as shocked by some things, but I was immensely disturbed by the dysfunction and evil that coursed through this novel. Filled with emotion, tension, and mystery, Mother, Mother is a novel that will chill you to the bone – and give you a strange urge to call your Mama, too.

Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas. Buy it, read it… and go kiss your Mama.

4 stars

Source: Crown Publishing {via NetGalley}



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