Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mother, Mother

Koren Zailckas

Mother, Mother is a literary psychological thriller that reveals the terrors of a dysfunctional family. Josephine Hurst, the matriarch of the Hurst family, is an overbearing mother who believes a family should be raised and presented in a certain way, and works timelessly to ensure this is presented to the public eye, at the cost of her family being miserable and misled. This novel chronicles the Hurst’s family after the disappearance of their eldest daughter, Rose, and the events leading up to her disappearance. The middle child Violet's hatred for her mother leads her to find comfort in substance abuse and various religious beliefs that results in self inflicted starvation and hallucinations; te youngest child, William, is home-schooled by his mother, who claims to be the best teacher possible for his education and uses his autism and epilepsy as an excuse to keep him out of public school. Lastly, the father of the household, Douglas, struggles with his alcohol addiction and the manipulation of his wife, leaving his children without a supportive figure father as they are overcome with their mother’s rules and strong beliefs.

Zalickas' book explores the trust issues between mothers and daughters and the overbearing love that can suffocate a child and lead them into rebellion or loss of freedom. As Rose and William become impersonations of what Josephine expects them to be, Violet rebels and attempts to escape the confinements of her mother's judgments with drug abuse. In the scene that sets off the novel, Violet comes home for dinner far too high and lashes out at her mother, resulting in the apparent assault of her younger brother, sending him to the hospital. This abuse lands Violet in a mental institution at the request of her mother. While Violet is left to deal with her mixed emotions and memories of that night, her mother spreads rumours of her being a compulsive liar. Her father, who was too drunk to remember the events of the night, leaves Violet to fill in not only the blanks of that night, but to piece together her sister's disappearance. Violet gains hope when, on her first day at the mental institution, she receives a letter surprisingly still sealed from her Rose, looking to reconnect, setting off Violet’s search for information about her lost sister's past and present life.

Koren Zailckas
Mother, Mother is filled with mystery, the darknesses of life, shocking twists, and false pretenses of belief created by Josephine to confuse both the reader and her family. It works to reveal the consequences and outcomes of desolation and confinement upon an individual, especially when this overbearing judgment comes from the person they hold dearest as a child, as a center of truth and learning, their mother. At the book's core is an individual's desire to keep someone present even after they are gone, the boundary between right and wrong, and what signifies possession and control over another human being. Just because an individual is birthed by their mother, does that always mean she knows what’s best for you? Zalickas reveals life’s greatest truths as she explores hidden mental health conditions and a mother’s desire to project her children as perfect to the community. 

Josephine Hurst's only concern is acting like the perfect mother, rather than truly loving and caring for her family. The idea of perfection consumes this novel as we are led through the various viewpoints of the Hurst’s family and see how that projection of perfection and smothering attitude leads to various outcomes of the children searching for an escape. 

Sabrina Groomes is in her last year at the University of Guelph, where she will be graduating with an undergraduate degree in English and Art History. She has a passion for writing, reading, and the surprises that come from it, not only from herself, but from other writers too.

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