It is Mothers’ Day this coming weekend in the US. And as some marketing emails would suggest, I’m sure there are mothers that do like books with blue covers, with a photo of the back of a woman, staring out to sea. I am not one of those mothers.
I have become a different reader now I am a parent. I have no qualms with throwing a bad book out the window, but I also have more sympathy for parental characters. I remember attempting to read We Need to Talk About Kevin in my twenties, and couldn’t fathom why Kevin’s mother didn’t just tell him to fuck off.
Anyway, here are some of my favorite books about motherhood, in all its strange, varied forms.
Chouette, by Claire Oshetsky (Ecco) – This gorgeous novel, about a woman and her owl baby, is one of the best books about parentingI have ever read. It’s funny, dark, moving, and unrelentingly honest about how difficult and beautiful motherhood can be. Is it a weird novel? Yes, and it’s amazing.
Just Like Mother, by Anne Heltzel (Tor Nightfire) – This isn’t out yet, but I’m sure all bookish moms appreciate a pre-order. This book is bonkers, revolving around cousins who grew up in a misandrist cult. Mysteriously reunited when they are older, things turn a bit Rosemary’s Baby. An entertaining thriller.
Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal, by Jeanette Winterson (Grove Press) – If you like your mothers a bit on the evangelical christian side, then this is the memoir for you. Winterson is enormously entertaining, and this book about her disturbing childhood is so raw.
Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch, by Rivka Galchen (FSG) – Oh my word, I loved this book. More about the disturbing power of fear than motherhood, but it has a lot to say about how it can be difficult to exist both as a mother and a person.
You’re Not Crazy, It’s Your Mother, by Danu Morrigan (Augsburg) – Not everyone has a great relationship with their mother. It can be difficult to come to terms with this, and I found Danu’s book incredibly helpful in making some important decisions regarding my mental health.
The Pumpkin Eater, by Penelope Mortimer (NYRB Classics)- This is a stone cold classic. Penelope Mortimer was an under-appreciated treasure and you should read all her books right now.
My Phantoms, by Gwendoline Riley (Granta) – I feel like this novel is a kept secret by those who have read it. It’s an unflinching look at mother/daughter relationship, as the mother begins to deteriorate. Gorgeous prose, with a heartbreaking story. I loved it.