Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Mother, Mother – Koren Zailckas

Psychological Fiction 3's
Psychological Fiction

Society has high expectations of mothers so is it any wonder that some women expect their offspring to advertise how good they are at it?

The story of Josephine, is told through the eyes of her two youngest children, Violet and William. Rose, the first-born has left home a year earlier having packed up her belongings and moved away with a boyfriend. The family is understandably confused, after all Rose was the perfect daughter.

The reader only has to start William’s first entry in the book to realise the relationship he has with his mother probably isn’t the healthiest for a twelve-year-old boy, but William has autism and suffers with seizures which means that his mother has decided it is best if he is home-schooled.

Violet on the other hand is a rebel, unwilling to behave the way her mother wants and one evening events come to a head, William is hurt and Violet is removed from the house for everyone’s safety.

The plot is interesting and I enjoyed reading the different viewpoints of the two siblings; it is well-known that especially in dysfunctional families two children remember events in very different ways but the author didn’t really exploit this although the fact that all three children had reacted in different ways to get their mother’s approval was endlessly underlined in case the reader missed the point.

For me the underlying problem with this book is I felt removed from the action, I didn’t particularly empathise with either Violet or William which meant that I was left with a feeling of unease but nothing stronger. Koren Zailckas raises the stakes with Josephine’s behaviour which in turn builds the tension towards the conclusion and although the ending rang true it meant that the book finishes on quite a depressing note. If I had connected with this book more I can see that it might have been like Herman Koch’s the Dinner in which despite being shocking lingered, but Mother, Mother just didn’t quite hit the right note for me.


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

10 thoughts on “Mother, Mother – Koren Zailckas

  1. hmm…you don’t seem to have liked it, but the premise is pretty interesting, very interesting in fact. I still do want to pick up this book and try it.


    1. I honestly think that this is one of those books where my understanding of some of the issues interfered with my enjoyment of the book. It wasn’t a bad read the only real criticism I have was that the characters didn’t seem fully formed (see above) I can’t say much more without issuing a spoiler 🙂


  2. I actually enjoyed it, as the mother and her behavior were familiar to me, from my thirty-year career as a social worker. Perhaps you have to have had personal experience with these kinds of people to “connect.” Thanks for sharing.


    1. Possibly 😉 I find it hard to connect when a character’s actions are all put down to a bad childhood. In my experience there are lots of people that haven’t had the best start in life have done a great job of changing things for the future, nothing is inevitable! At the same time I can see that someone who doesn’t feel strongly about those types of explanations would like the book much more than I did 🙂


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