Talk about a family with major issues and secrets. Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas is the exploration of a family who's matriarch is possibly one of the most vile, nutcases I have read in a long time. Mother, Mother is brilliantly twisted, engrossing, and makes those of us with "normal" parents thank our lucky stars.
It is evident from page one when William Hurst wakes to find his mother smiling down at him that maybe Josephine Hurst is a few cans short of a six pack. It could be that her husband drank five of those cans, but we'll never know because he's currently laid out and plastered in the next room. Violet Hurst isn't there to help either because she may (or may not) have gone into a violent rage against her younger brother William. Dysfunction at its finest.
When Josephine isn't cleverly manipulating every situation we get down to the grit of the story. A visit from the Child's Protective Services sparks the unraveling of a family who doesn't have it together at all. The reason for CPS is that they are following up on the running away of Rose Hurst, the eldest child. With the new violent action having taken place in the home, there's reason to suspect that things aren't too good in the Hurst household. With Violet rushed to an insane asylum we get the truth of who/what Josephine is. William, her loyal and faithful subject, gives us evidence.
Koren Zailckas gives us a family with very real problems. Their greatest threat, problem, is their narcissistic, sociopath matriarch. Think of Joan Crawford (it's there in the book...really!) This is Josephine. She's always the victim, and so concerned with her public image. Assuming there's always someone out to get her and deflects all her short-comings onto the world, or whoever's convenient. Zailckas cleverly places true psychology facts in order to give Josephine the most depth and realism as possible. I love it.
There are so many flawed characters in this novel that I can't choose who to dislike most so I'll choose the father. Ultimately it's Doug Hurst's fault that he didn't try to see the world he placed his family to live in sooner. I would like to dislike William since he is Josephine's pawn, but it's not his fault that his mother created him. At his age he's so impressionable that I can't really blame his being maleable on him. She also supplies him with a list of handicaps such as autism and seizures to ensure he remains in her clutches. Plus, unlike his sisters, he hasn't reached the dreaded teen years that scare their mother to no one.
Mother, Mother is a must-read for fans of dark fiction, psychological suspense, and clever plots. I had my suspicions about the ending but I wasn't let down at all. Koren Zailckas' debut novel is sure to excite the masses and may make her a new favorite for those who haven't read her bestselling Memoirs. Zailckas says it best: "Having a baby doesn't make you a mother anymore than buying a piano makes you fucking Beethoven." ****