2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

Wicked, Evil, and Downright Mean: A (Slightly Unusual) Homage to Mother’s Day

Well, it’s obviously not Book Review Tuesday. Nonetheless, I have decided that a break with tradition is utterly acceptable and therefore today shall henceforth be known as Temporary Book Review Friday. The theme is Mother’s Day – but with a twist.

See, I’ve been thinking a lot about mothers lately. Not only is Mother’s Day approaching, several of my very closest friends happen to be pregnant, I’ve been spending more time with some Awesome Kids (speaking of which – check out TheAwesomeKids.com, where you too can have some awesome kid-type fun), and I’ve been spending more time with my own mother, helping her out a bit as she is recuperating quite nicely after a hand and a foot surgery. CAVEAT: none of the mothers referenced above are in the least bit wicked, evil, or downright mean. HOWEVER: thinking about kids/mothers in my own life led me to think about kids/mothers in books (yes, this is how my brain works – everything ties back to books. Teehee).

Rarely are there any nice mothers as featured characters in books (or at least not in the books I read); be they memoirs, fiction, or whatever, books with mothers (including step-mothers) as major characters or plot elements tend to be about mean, nasty, rotten, horrid, nefarious, sneaky, wily, unlovable women. While these women are terrible mothers, they often make for fascinating characters – after all, who doesn’t love to hate a good villain now and again? So I decided that, in an odd and slightly unusual homage to Mother’s Day, today’s book reviews would feature some of the best of the worst mothers I have had the (dis)pleasure to share a few hundred pages (and a few dozen concomitant hours) with in the past.

  • Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews – Seriously, this woman may be the WORST mother in the history of mothers. After the death of her husband, she takes her four children to her extremely wealthy father’s house where she proceeds to literally lock them in the attic and basically forget that they exist – all in the name of securing her father’s money for herself (and ostensibly the children). Horror upon horror gets piled onto the heads of these poor kids as they suffer every indignity and deprivation imaginable. All in the name of greed. Mother of the year, here you come… There have been rumors that the story was based on an actual woman/family – one can only hope these rumors have, like those of Mark Twain’s death, been greatly exaggerated.
  • The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls – Sadly, this is a true story… Eek, she said. Walls’ memoir of her childhood is fascinating in its exposition of how truly dysfunctional a family can be, and an impressive illustration of the principle that some people are simply not meant to be parents. Rose Mary Walls is one of the more self-absorbed characters I’ve run across – while in her mind she appears to honestly believe she is promoting a spirit of freedom and individuality and self-sufficiency in her children, what she actually appears to be doing is devolving into mental illness and succumbing to an extraordinarily blatant spirit of neglect. That Walls junior manages to relate her own story in such a straightforward and non-self-pitying voice is a testament to the resilience of her own spirit.
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – I know, I know – you are asking yourself why on earth this is here, when it’s a novel about the Civil War, right? Well, if you have read the book – as opposed to having only seen the movie – you will get it. Scarlett O’Hara is many fabulous things – she is an unbelievably strong woman and a survivor of circumstances that would have (and in fact likely did) kill many women or men. She is resilient, determined, persuasive, savvy, sneaky, and smart. She is also a terrible mother. Seriously. Sure, she is nice to her youngest child, Bonnie (her child with Rhett Butler). But um, what about the other two children? Merciful heavens, she basically leaves poor milquetoast Wade Hamilton and the unfortunately visaged Ella Kennedy to their own devices during the middle of the War, apparently for no greater crime than each bearing more than a passing resemblance to their father, both of whom Scarlett pretty much resented, mistreated, and bullied from the moment of each marriage. Scarlett manages to personify so many aspirational qualities – unfortunately, maternal instinct was not one of them…
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman – This is a bit of an anomaly. You see, there is a good mother (albeit one whose daughter does not routinely consider her as such) and then there is the Other Mother (the one the daughter does consider good, right up until she is rudely awakened and realizes she is pure evil). Gaiman is one of my favorites (see “Not Just For Kids Anymore” for a review of another of his fabulous tales, The Graveyard Book), and Coraline is standard Gaiman fare, full of darkness, horror, and ultimately something at least a little bit good (and at least a little bit surprising). And the Tim Burton movie version is almost as good as the book. Almost.
  • Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger – Teehee, this is not so much an evil mother as one who is flighty, completely disconnected, and utterly lacking in compassion toward her “different” daughter (the eponymous Soulless, also known as Alexia – her daughter from her first marriage). Alexia is – as the title states – without a soul; her adventures in Victorian England are a brilliant mixture of satire, steampunk, and sassiness. Her mother is utterly at a loss on how to handle any of these things – or her daughter – and as a result spends her time alternately insulting and ignoring her eldest daughter in favor of her two daughters from her subsequent (profitable and respectable and extremely silly) husband. Soulless is a very fun kickoff to an original series that features an oh-so-impressive heroine, a swoon-worthy hero, and a more-than-healthy smattering of Victorian intrigue, werewolves, vampires, scandal, rules of decorum, umbrellas, and ugly hats.
  • So there you have it – evidence that all mothers are not created equal. So why don’t you stop what you are doing right now and call your own mother – and thank your lucky stars she isn’t on this list… 😉

4 comments to Wicked, Evil, and Downright Mean: A (Slightly Unusual) Homage to Mother’s Day

  • Hi Jill, I think I wrote you, on blogbooks, that I was following your blog. I’m glad I came over to double check. It looks and reads great!
    ( http://apainedlife.blogspot.com/ )

    • Thank you so much Carol! I’m glad you stopped by and that you enjoyed it – it is so wonderful to get comments and hear that anyone actually (a) reads what I write and (b) finds it interesting/entertaining! I enjoy writing the posts/reviews, of course, but I also rather enjoy hearing that others enjoy them too!!

      So thanks again…

  • Glad you mentioned Mother’s Day. How did that creep up on me without my noticing?

    I’ve just joined your blog. Thanks for the note over at blogbooks. If you’d like to come over to the Write Game, I’d love to see you there.


    • I did come visit, and am now a follower also – and thank you for visiting and joining my blog!

      I honestly don’t know HOW Mother’s Day crept along so quietly and yet so quickly either – to me it seems like we just got to the New Year, let alone May! Then again, it has taken me 2 days to send this response, so you can probably tell what a tenuous grasp I have on time to begin with… 😉

      Thanks again for the kind words!

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