Is there anything that Koren Zailckas can’t write? The young author first crashed onto the literary scene with her iconic best-selling memoir, Smashed, which chronicled her years of teenage alcoholism. Now, she is making her fiction debut, and it is just as captivating as her memoirs.
Mother, Mother introduces the Hurst family, living in upstate New York. There’s William, the 12-year-old autistic (and highly intelligent) son, who spends his days being homeschooled. Violet, his teenaged sister, would rather get high with her friends than spend another minute at home. Their father, Douglas, is an alcoholic programmer who’d prefer to hide behind office doors instead of showing his face at the dinner table. And there’s Josephine, the controlling, manipulative matriarch.
But there’s a family member on the periphery of this portrait that the rest are unable to think—let alone talk—about. Rose, a struggling perfectionist, had a budding career as a stage actress. However, when Rose runs away from home with her mysterious boyfriend Dante, breaking all contact with her family, it sets off a chain of events that threatens to tear the Hursts apart.
As the novel opens, Violet has been committed to a psychiatric hospital. Josephine claims that Violet stabbed William while high on acid, yet Violet has no recollection of having attacked her brother. Violet and William recount their memories of that chaotic evening in alternating chapters. As they struggle to uncover their family’s darkest secret, the siblings begin to question everything, especially their mother’s motives. Is William as ill as Josephine claims? Is Violet really dangerous? And what was the true impetus for Rose’s escape?
Mother, Mother is an exquisitely written psychological thriller. Readers will root for Violet and William as the siblings struggle to escape their mother’s terrifying clutches.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with Koren Zailckas for Mother, Mother.Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
Having published the searing memoir Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood, which has sold more than 500,000 copies, Zailckas has a ready audience. Teenage Violet, hospitalized after drug experimentation; autistic eight-year-old Will; their Scotch-guzzling dad; even runaway sister Rose--all are under the control of ever-interfering matriarch Josephine.[Page 56]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Zailckas's first novel after the extremely well-received memoir Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood tells a similarly compelling story that at times is difficult to read owing to the disturbing details of abuse. The dysfunctional family at the center of the novel is run like a corporation by a two-faced CEO: Josephine Hurst, former artist and mother of three. The story of Josephine's subtle manipulation unfolds from the perspectives of 12-year-old William, who has recently been diagnosed as autistic and taken out of public school, and 16-year-old Violet, who has just been committed to a mental hospital. The atmosphere of the hospital and its routines and characters are richly imagined and bring to mind Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted. While the novel takes place over a brief period in a small town in New York, the language and emotions render an epic quality of classic family sagas such as Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks or Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. VERDICT An excellent page-turner recommended for those who enjoy psychological thrillers and aren't afraid of narratives that look evil in the face. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]--Kate Gray, Shrewsbury P.L., MA[Page 105]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This is a riveting fiction debut from Zailckas, whose bestselling memoirs Smashed and Fury portrayed the author as a young woman ravaged by alcohol addiction and anger. Never mind that Zailckas explores some of the same disturbing territory here. It's the kind of book that keeps you up at night, featuring a mother to rival Medea or Mrs. Bates. Violet, the dysfunctional Hurst family's stoner middle child, cannot remember which family member slashed her 12-year-old brother Will the night she overdosed on some strange seeds. But her mother, Josephine, blames her, and has her committed to a psychiatric hospital. Violet has no idea who to turn to for help: her spineless, alcoholic father, Douglas; her runaway older sister, Rose; or Will, the home-schooled mama's boy. Violet searches for clues relating to Rose's disappearance, but nothing adds up, and every day Will becomes more desperately dependent on Josephine. The shocking and violent denouement shows Zailckas to be a consummate storyteller. Let's hope that when she's used up all her own demons as subject matter, she'll come looking for ours. (Sept.)[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC