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.

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