Rated Reads

Mother, Mother

by Koren Zailckas

Rated: High

Violet Hurst finds herself locked up in a psychiatric facility after one bad evening in which she chews on some mind-altering seeds with friends and supposedly cuts up her little brother’s hand after threatening her mother with a knife. But not only can she not remember hurting William, who’s only 12 and has some autism issues and seizures, she is sure she wouldn’t have. Her father was there but likely drunk, so he’s unreliable, and the strangest thing is she thought she saw her sister Rose, who ran away a year earlier.

During the time she’s in the hospital, she tries to piece together the facts, by talking to friends, a police officer, a social worker assigned to investigate her home, and her father. She even gets a letter from Rose, who hasn’t contacted the family the whole time she’s been gone. There are too many questions and possibilities, but Violet gradually puts things together. One thing she’s sure of is this: her mother, Josephine, is dangerous and manipulative. But just how far would her mother go in her controlling ways? Could Rose have played any part in the whole drama?

Readers learn the pieces of the story as Violet tries to make sense of them, even as the narrative switches between her point of view and William’s, and it becomes increasingly clear that something is seriously wrong. Mother, Mother is fascinating, disturbing, and almost impossible to put down. It’s not only a page-turning “mystery” but an interesting look into human nature and how people respond differently to the same challenges (and challenging, even evil, people).

Rated: High, for a few dozen uses of strong language and other moderate and crude language, some sexual references, and some violence.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Mother, Mother
  • by Koren Zailckas
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: