Mother, Mother – Koren Zailckas
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
” They f___ you up your Mum and Dad, They may not mean to but they do. “ Harsh words from Philip Larkin but he has a point…except here it’s Mommie Dearest who is most at fault in the shape of Josephine Hurst, narcissistic mother of 3 vulnerable children with a rather needy husband too.
It might seem quite trite to state that a book was “unputdownable” but in this case I was so engrossed that everything else had to be put on hold. I just had to keep on reading – this was car crash tv, the subject matter was disturbing but fascinating and it’s been a while since a book had such an immediate hold on me.
From the early stages we know that Josephine Hurst is the manipulative matriarch at the heart of all her family’s woes. Eldest daughter Rose ran away, middle child Violet tried to escape through drugs and the youngest, 12 year old Will is so wrapped up in his mom’s web of lies he worships the ground she walks on. The dad, Douglas, is distracted by his own demons – he is an alcoholic and completely unaware of the danger his children face.
Josephine has psychological abuse down to a fine art. She knows her family’s pressure points and boy does she exploit any weakness with the seemingly innocuous remark, the pouring out a glass of wine for Douglas, the downright disturbing babying of her son.
It is Violet (Viola) who decides to fight back but as a 15 year drug user with no support from her ineffectual father, it’s not going to be an easy battle to win – especially not against Manipulative Mom. I loved her gutsiness and determination.
The story is told from the point of view of Violet and Will in short alternating chapters. It quickly becomes clear that Violet has more of a mind of her own than Will who has a questionable diagnosis of autism and epilepsy – a diagnosis actively encouraged by Mom.
Whilst many of the plot twists are predictable and a tad theatrical, this is still a fascinating read and I think it will have huge commercial success and will also be a favourite for book groups. I can already see folk entering the nature versus nurture debate re Will Hurst. It doesn’t have the depth of We Need to Talk about Kevin but it will raise age-old issues which we never tire of debating.
A great debut, this psychological thriller will have you on tenterhooks.