Reviews for Lost Mother
Booklist Reviews 2004 December #1
In her sixth novel, Morris, an Oprah author (Songs in Ordinary Time, 1995), mines the turf she knows so well, small-town New England, and travels back to the Great Depression. Henry Talcott is taken in as a boy by a scraping-along farmer, who assumes that Henry will marry his down-to-earth daughter, Gladys. Henry falls for fancy-girl Irene, instead, and they have two children. As the curtain rises, beautiful, self-centered Irene takes off to seek her fortune, and Henry and the kids are reduced to living in a tent. Preternaturally tough and passionate, 11-year-old Thomas, the reigning consciousness of the novel, tries to protect his younger sister, Margaret. But as their father's efforts to support them fail miserably, the children end up homeless and at the mercy of an array of wildly dysfunctional and predatory adults, including their drunken beautician aunt; Gladys' cruel father; and the scheming, cake-baking Mrs. Farley and her spoiled-rotten, deviate, and invalid son. Morris' nearly flawless prose is mesmerizing. Thomas and Margaret's determination to survive is compelling, and their almost surreal and certainly gothic odyssey from one monstrous situation to the next exerts a potent if morbid fascination. Ultimately, Morris demonstrates how both poverty and greed sicken the soul, and how those who cling to love against all odds are redeemed. ((Reviewed December 1, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2004 December #1
A Depression-era, lachrymose saga targeting the latest fashionable villain in literature: the absent mother.During the Depression, hard times descend on rural Vermont, where teenaged Thomas and his younger sister, Margaret, have to live in a tent near Black Pond with their father, Henry Talcott, their farm having been foreclosed due to lack of slaughtering work. Compounding the economic crisis is the desertion of their mother, Irene, who has caught a bus to Collerton, Massachusetts, to work in the mills and save money to bring home. Or so the story goes, since the beautiful, sensitive Irene, despondent since the needless death of her last child, has decamped for good, leaving the two lonely children to be neglected by a haughty, brooding father who can't provide for them. From time to time, the children are rescued and fed by such neighbors as the kind-hearted Gladys Bibeau, Henry's fiancée until Irene turned his head; and the conniving, rich Farleys, who now own Henry's land and aim to adopt Margaret as a playmate for their half-witted son Jesse-boy. Morris (A Hole in the Universe, 2004, etc.) piles on the misfortunes, and by the time the kids arrive at Mom's doorstep, nothing can get worse for them-except that it does. Morris's characters, save for the children, are cutouts, especially Irene, who appears merely blank, and father Henry, whose 11th-hour claim for his children after a course of general indifference makes no sense. Even the nuns in the orphanage are caricatures. Morris employs tricky devices for emotional effect, such as setting the novel in a fuzzy, bygone era full of nostalgic associations, but the reader quickly tires of emotional manipulation.A mother remorselessly abandons her children in a cheap tearjerker. Author tour. Agent: Jean Naggar/Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 January #1
"They said it was bad for everyone, but nobody else the boy knew had to live in the woods." Thus begins the harrowing story of 12-year-old Thomas and eight-year-old Margaret in Morris's powerful sixth novel. Reduced to living in a tent in Vermont during the Depression, the children and their father, Henry Talcott, a butcher who must travel daily seeking work, are barely surviving their abandonment by the children's reluctant mother. The shattered family aches with the desire to bring home beautiful, troubled Irene while Henry crumbles into a "whipped man... worn down and grim," and Thomas takes on the role of caretaker. Henry's longtime friend Gladys shows the family rare kindness, but a longstanding animosity between her crotchety father and Henry makes it impossible for the Talcotts to accept her charity. In typical Morris fashion, the author paints a brutal landscape and authentic characters with delicacy and precision: from the chaotic household of Irene's alcoholic sister to the creepy relationship between a sick boy and his doting mother, who wants to adopt Thomas and Margaret. Never one to shy away from the messy and bleak, Morris (Songs in Ordinary Time; Vanished) unflinchingly illuminates the bitter existence of neglected children and their inspiring resilience, once again proving herself a storyteller of great compassion, insight and depth. Agent, Jean Naggar. 3-city author tour. (Feb. 21) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2005 September
Adult/High School -Abandoned by their mother and bankrupted out of their home, Thomas, 11, and Margaret, 8, are forced to grow up too quickly, surviving hand-to-mouth with their father in a tent in Vermont's woods during the Great Depression. While the man does his best to care for their physical needs, he is too besieged by worries about survival to spare any tenderness. The children are convinced that their mother will return, and their continued hopefulness and loyalty to her is perhaps the most heartbreaking element of this tale. As much as this is a story about Thomas and Margaret, it is also about the ways in which severe hardships bring out extremes in human nature. Irene fails her children most tragically, but they are let down more subtly by most of the other adults with whom they are involved. Morris's stark language evokes the loneliness and disconnectedness of two children desperately trying to find their way back to their mother, only to face her rejection a second time. All is not lost, however: amid the grasping self-centeredness that dominates many of the characters, one person redeems himself and offers the youngsters the acceptance and compassion they have missed for so long. Painstaking detail provides richness and a valuable history lesson on 1930s America. The central themes of resiliency and hope are a good reminder that even when individuals or communities feel that they have no control over their circumstances, it is their response to those circumstances that makes all the difference.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA [Page 244]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.