Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

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Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: The troubles of three children ultimately come down to one root cause, their narcissistic mother, in this disturbing yet riveting read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: January 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0007547388

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There’s a hideous advert on TV at the moment that tells mums they’re doing great. And wouldn’t they like to buy some formula for their little ones, while they’re at it? It’s such a sweeping statement but the theory must be that mothers try to do their best for the kids, whatever the circumstances and whatever their resources.

Enter Josephine Hurst. She is not that kind of mother, as her children Violet and Will will tell you. Their older sister ran away to escape the matriarch’s clutches, and now Violet’s been sent to a psyc ward following an ‘incident’ at home. Will, on the other hand, is being home schooled as a result of his epilepsy and autism – diagnoses that came quite late in his childhood, and only after his mother spotted them, after various specialists had failed to label him correctly (and for 'correctly' read ‘'to Josephine’s satisfaction'). Throw in an absent father and you have the makings of the most dysfunctional of families.

Told alternating between Violet and Will’s viewpoints, this is an oddly endearing book about a family with more issues than the archives of Vogue. It’s hard to believe they’ve made it this far but finally something’s snapped, the fuse has been lit, and the explosions are not far behind. The two siblings have different theories, different obsessions, and their investigative work takes them in different directions but as the reader it’s quite clear that everything is leading back to one stunning reveal.

Reading this book is like watching car crash television: you can’t look away even though you know a disaster is imminent. Towards the end I sped up, almost as if I could beat the characters to the conclusion, though when it came it was as shocking to me as it was to Will. This is a really dark read that will appeal to those who like psychological thrillers. It’s not full of murders and violence and dark city scenes, but you’ll soon see that suburban life can be one of the most frightening things of all.

There are some scenes in this book that are a little graphic, some topics which become an obsession and perhaps given more attention that they deserve. The issue with the termination was one which I thought went on too long, though I understood its importance to the storyline. A few times the coincidences seemed too much , for example Violet and Douglas bumping into each other at the meeting, and Douglas’ evolution from an extra to a leading character midway through the story didn’t quite sit right. I wanted Will to move away from his diagnoses a bit more towards the end, and his behaviour towards his father was something I had expected to change when the truth came out, but sometimes things are the way they are, and you can’t have them be different just for a nicer ending to a story, in fiction or in real life.

Overall I was impressed by this fictional debut, and would read more from the author, which is the only recommendation you need. Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book.

The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement by Jean M Twenge and W Keith Campbell gives an analysis of the ever increasing problem of self obsession. It describes Josephine perfectly.

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Buy Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas at


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