28 May 2013

Mother, Mother; Koren Zailckas

Mother, Mother: A NovelMother, Mother: A Novel by Koren Zailckas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are mothers, and then there are mothers. Josephine falls into the latter category, but it takes us quite a while to figure that out.

Her story is told through the dual viewpoints of Violet and Will, two of her children. Violet and some friends took seeds, which caused hallucinations and, at some point, Violet attacked her brother, leading her parents no choice but to take her to the local psych ward (her bad trip was probably aided by her following the Jain practice of sallekhana, or fasting unto death). We see her trying to come to grips with what she did - if she actually did it - and her older sister Rose's running away from home, her mother's controlling nature and her father's alcoholism. Will is recovering from his sister's attack, as well as dealing with a late-onset Aspergers and epilepsy that led to being homeschooled. His relationship with his mother is far more complicated, by turns overly connected and somewhat suspicious. Josephine herself reminded me of those Southern Gothic mothers, only living in semi-upstate New York (Kingston and Stone Ridge do not qualify as "real" upstate).

There was a slight horror/suspense quality here, but overall the story was more V.C. Andrews-esque than real horror/suspense. At times both Will and Violet's voices were not just preternaturally adult, they were unbelievably adult (example, the part when Will, who has been rather sheltered, thinks about life in boarding school) - perhaps those passages were supposed to have been written from the perspective of several years? It was also disappointing that we ended with less of Will. His journey was more interesting to me and his end was least explored.

ARC provided by publisher.

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