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Mother, Mother: A Novel Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (September 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385347235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385347235
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Zailckas, known for her biting memoirs Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood (2005) and Fury: True Tales of a Girl Gone Ballistic (2010), turns to the (hopefully) fictional tale of a woman hell-bent on manipulating the world around her. Matriarch Josephine doesn’t quite have things under control the way she would prefer. Her husband is an alcoholic; her son is on the autism spectrum; her younger daughter, Violet, has just been committed to a mental hospital; and her older daughter is a runaway. But to the outside world, this extremely dysfunctional family looks practically flawless, thanks to Josephine’s well-plotted machinations. When she concocts a story meant to keep Violet locked away, it means a visit from Child Protective Services that puts the family in a spotlight, and Josephine’s carefully constructed world begins to crumble (much like the Martha Stewart scones she has ready for them upon their arrival). Josephine is a truly frightening character—realistically flawed with just the right touch of over-the-top madness—and Zailckas crafts an intriguing mystery surrounding this family that will keep readers on edge as she slowly peels back layer after layer of deception. --Rebecca Vnuk


2014 Winner of the Alex Award

“Superbly unsettling...Provocative...A haunting meditation on family, love and unimaginable loss...A firecracker thriller full of whip-smart psychological insights.” 
—San Francisco Chronicle

“Zailckas is a writer to watch and treasure...fiercely of the most profound and insightful books about mother-child relationships when they go devastatingly wrong.” —Dallas Morning News

It is a while since I've read anything as darkly funny as Koren Zailckas's Mother, Mother…Superbly paced and structured, with dialogue worthy of Lena Dunham, Mother, Mother is an engrossing, and finally shocking, read.”The Guardian (UK)

"Koren Zailckas's Mother Mother is disturbing in the best possible way: believably. The slow, subtle darkness at the core of this book starts as a trickle and grows to a flash flood, and not once does it stop feeling absolutely authentic. Zailckas has written a gut-wrenching exploration of narcissism, dependence and family. It's an amazing book." –Kelly Braffet, author of Josie and Jack and Last Seen Leaving

“A creepy thriller [that] starts with an ordinary family and ends in nail-biting suspense…A horrifying and deeply moving look into the dark secrets in a seemingly ‘perfect family,’ this is a hard-hitting page turner.”—Parkersburg News & Sentinel

“A stunning debut that is sure to spark debate and cause a stir...Full of wise and witty observations, and a mounting sense of dread...brilliant firecracker-like prose, a page-turning plot, and an unmistakable voice.” —Paramus Post

“A riveting fiction debut…it’s the kind of book that keeps you up at night, featuring a mother to rival Medea or Mrs. Bates…The shocking and violent denouement shows Zailckas to be a consummate storyteller.” –Publishers Weekly

“Richly imagined and bring[s] to mind Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted... An excellent page-turner recommended for those who enjoy psychological thrillers and aren't afraid of narratives that look evil in the face.” –Library Journal

“Zailckas crafts an intriguing mystery surrounding this family that will keep readers on edge as she slowly peels back layer after layer of deception.” –Booklist

“A hall of mirrors reflecting chaotic maternal psychological mayhem reminiscent of Mommie Dearest or Push or Ordinary People.”–Kirkus Reviews

“An exquisitely written psychological thriller...Just as captivating as her memoirs.”—Book Page

“Think Mommie Dearest meets Psycho. Then just sit back, open the book, and have an absolute ball.” —Suspense Magazine

"[An] impressive debut novel...engaging, well-crafted."—

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

This is a well written interesting book.
Will...does anything his mother says for fear of her punishments.
In the end, it took just too long to get there.
Amelia Gremelspacher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By kas on September 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Zailckas has crafted a very original work that will stick in readers' minds -- at least my mind, certainly -- for a lot longer than most novels. Reading this book makes me eager to get another taste of her authorial voice by picking up her bestseller Smashed.

One of the greatest strengths of Mother, Mother is its structure as a tale told through two characters' perspectives. The two perspectives are those of the children of the titular mother, Josephine -- namely, William and Violet Hurst. It is the idiosyncratic, yet deeply human voices of William and Violet that make this novel so touching and compelling -- and often downright masterful.

Needless to say, the two young people do not view their unique familial situation in the same light, so this opens up many new layers for the reader to consider than if the tale were told through the use of a third-person omniscient narrator.

Another feature of this novel I admire is Zailckas's use of all sorts of absurd, informal language to describe serious matters. Sometimes nothing less than the absurd is sufficiently descriptive, and it's a great way to give the reader the flavor of the psychological perspective -- whether William's or Violet's -- currently being employed.

This book is a lot more than a tale of disturbing familial dysfunction -- it's a *truly great* multi-faceted psychological novel.

Please be advised I won an Advance Reader's Edition of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.
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Format: Hardcover
I haven't read too many psychologically thrillers, but I really should more often. Mother, Mother is a book that's impossible not to enjoy; with an unconventional perspective on what it means to be a doting mother, it at once left me greatly disturbed and deeply satisfied, which is an emotive pairing I never expected myself to feel.

First off, I should warn you all: this book is not for the faint-hearted. There isn't so much blood and guts here as there is a grotesquely screwed-up family... yes, it's that kind of scary. The false cheeriness--the cutting sarcasm--that floats in the atmosphere of the novel makes it all the more frightening; you can think of Josephine as a cross between the ultimate Stepford wife and Psycho's Norman Bates, which is a genius, but lethal combination.

The story begins in Woodstock, New York, in the wake of the oldest Hurst daughter, Rose's sudden departure, which Josephine swears is all part of Rose's grand plan to turn her perfect family into a perfect wreck... or at least expose its so-called "perfection" to the world. Violet, the younger Hurst flower, suffers from what at first appears to be middle child syndrome: not good enough to replace her sister yet not respected enough to trump her coddled, autistic brother, William. As detached as she is from everyone in her family, including, fortunately, her mother, she and her brother share a convoluted connection in that they're both trying to find Rose, or at least find out what really happened to her.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Patrice Hoffman on September 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Denise Gibbs on September 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a fantastic book! I could barely put it down. It is the story of the Hurst family, and to say they are dysfunctional is an understatement. This family has a lot of secrets. Mother Josephine is a controlling narcissistic sociopath. Father Douglas is an alcoholic. Daughter Rose, an aspiring actress, has been missing for a year. Daughter Violet is a headstrong but basically good kid. Will, the youngest, is allegedly autistic and has epilepsy. He has a pathologically close relationship with his mother who has basically turned him against every other family member. Violet and Will are the narrators.

The mystery is basically: what happened to Rose who allegedly ran away to live with a boyfriend? It may sound lame but, trust me, it isn't.

The story unfolds in a dramatic fashion and will keep you turning the pages far into the night. The writing is just so good. Besides the great writing, there is always an underlying, slightly tongue-in-cheek, dark humor. The characters, including the ancillary characters, are so perfectly developed, especially crazy Josephine. It makes me smile now just thinking about how deliciously insane she is.

I highly recommend this fascinating well-written book.
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