Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mother, Mother

Mother, Mother
Koren Zailckas
3.5 / 5

Published 2013

First Sentence
"Her face was the first thing William Hurst saw when he opened his eyes from his not-so-sweet dreams."

Very appropriate author-selected epigraph: 
"A family is a tyranny ruled over by its weakest member." --George Bernard Shaw
Publisher's Description:
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 fa├žade, but when a violent incident leads to a visit from child protective services, the truth about the Hursts might finally be revealed.
Dear Reader,

Let me first admit that one of the reasons I finally HAD to read this book was so that I could stop getting that darn Meredith Baxter song stuck in my head for weeks straight every time I saw this book on my shelf!  Not that I don't love that song, but man is it catchy, and I couldn't shake it.  My poor boyfriend had to listen to me singing it all the time, and then it only got worse while I was reading the novel, haha.  Luckily, I'll pass it on (perhaps to my sister?) and can finally rid my brain of that song, 24/7!  Probably.

Anyway, on to actually discussing the book, and not just the title.  So: there was definitely a point when I couldn't put this book down.  Zailckas pulls you in with a really gripping and confounding mystery, and all you want is to know what the heck is going on!  Not to mention the absolute craziness of "mother, mother" - watching her is like watching a train wreck.  It's hard to believe anyone could really be that psychotic, although I know it's not unreal.  I think one of the most thriller-esque qualities of this book for me was the idea that if everyone thinks the crazy person is the sane one, then there is a danger of the actual sane ones being condemned as the insane - and then actually starting to believe it themselves!  It's a terrifying thought.

The characters in this book were definitely engaging and pulled you in to their little world.  There wasn't a very wide scope to this book; it barely ever left its focus on the Hurst family, but I think that was a great plot device on the part of the author, to keep everything so narrow that the reader couldn't tell what was real or who was telling the truth.  There were certainly times I didn't know who or what to believe.  This book called vividly to mind the way I felt when reading Gone Girl, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed that mystery/thriller.  It is a delicious combination of slightly eerie and slightly insane and very much intriguing.

It's difficult to talk too much about the book without revealing things, but I will say I enjoyed the strong distinction between the characters, particularly those in the Hurst family.  A controlling mother, a victimized daughter, the rebel daughter (but: which daughter was which, really?), an autistic son, and an entirely helpless father, too busy caught up in his own messes to see what is going on with the rest of them.  Then there are the peripheral characters: the endearing social worker, the pushy social worker, the friend's mother who is a hardcore many wonderful characterizations and stereotypes all show up in the book.  Again, I think it was a brilliant way for the author to emphasize how easy it was to pigeonhole these characters, in their world.  You'll have to read to understand what I mean!


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