With Mother's Day less than a week away, there's no better time than now to celebrate the memorable mothers from some of our favorite recently published books. Some are memorably good mothers, while some are memorably bad mothers. Some are thoughtfully rendered portraits of real-life women, while some are purely fictional products of exceptional imaginations. One thing's for sure—they're all unforgettable.

wheredyougobernadetteppbkWHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE
by Maria Semple
Mother: Bernadette Fox

Mom to 15-year-old Bee, Bernadette hates living in Seattle, discussions of the weather and lots of other things. Chaotic hilarity ensues when she disappears just before a family vacation, leaving everyone to wonder where she went. Though Bernadette is fussy and difficult, you can't help but come to love her—despite her quirks and even if her neuroticism makes you grateful for your own mother's eccentricities.


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Amy and IsabelleAMY AND ISABELLE
by Elizabeth Strout
Mother: Isabelle Goodrow

The close-knit mother/daughter duo of widow Isabelle and 16-year-old Amy is challenged by more than just the usual teenage angst when Amy starts fooling around with her math teacher. Factor in the whispers of small-town gossips and a mother who is both appalled and a wee bit jealous of her daughter's predicament, and you've got what our reviewer called a "quiet but exhilarating novel."

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Almost moonTHE ALMOST MOON by Alice Sebold
Mother: Clair Knightly

The shocking fate of Clair Knightly is revealed in the first sentence of Sebold's novel. In flashbacks, narrator Helen unveils the grim details of a lifetime spent dealing with her mother's extreme mental illness, crippling agoraphobia and cruel indifference, leaving Helen feeling resentful, exhausted and ready to snap. Well, she does snap, in fact. Sometimes the line between love and hate is indeed fine.

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August62010254pmroomROOM by Emma Donoghue
Mother: Ma

Kidnapped at the age of 19, Ma has spent the past seven years confined to a 12x12 room, where her only company—aside from nightly visits from her captor—is her 5-year-old son, Jack, who has never even been outside of the room and who serves as the book's narrator. Despite these grim, claustrophobic circumstances, Ma's mothering skills and nurturing instincts are truly a wonder. (Read our interview with Donoghue and her Behind the Book essay about how she prepared to write Room.)

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with or without youWITH OR WITHOUT YOU
by Domenica Ruta
Mother: Kathi

In this memoir, Ruta recounts growing up on the North Shore of Massachusetts with her mom, Kathi, a drug addict with a giant personality. Both witty and wrenching, the book details the neglect, abuse and general dysfunction of Ruta's childhood, which will make you root for her as she works through her issues and overcomes her own addictions—ultimately realizing that she must leave Kathi behind to live a healthy, productive life.

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Bonesetters daughterTHE BONESETTER'S DAUGHTER
by Amy Tan
Mother: LuLing Liu Young

Elderly and recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, LuLing has spent her life angry and paranoid—believing her family to be living under a curse stemming from something that happened long ago. LuLing's daughter, Ruth, has become her mother's caretaker and discovers a document that reveals the events of LuLing's childhood in China, including the origins of the curse. Through LuLing's story, Ruth gains new insight into her mother and herself, allowing love and forgiveness to bloom.

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Mom & me & momMOM & ME & MOM by Maya Angelou
Mother: Vivian Baxter Johnson


Angelou delves into her complicated relationship with her unconventional mother. Raised by her grandmother in Arkansas, Angelou was a teen when she went to live with Johnson in California. Johnson—called "Lady" by Angelou—passed her wisdom on to her daughter, encouraging her to go after what she wanted. In this moving memoir, Angelou recounts the evolution of their relationship as they worked through resentments, ultimately forging a supportive and loving connection.


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nos4a2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Mother: Victoria "Vic" McQueen


Vic McQueen is one tough mama who favors a motorcycle over a minivan and sometimes goes looking for trouble. More than a little messed up from her dysfunctional childhood—punctuated by an escape from the clutches of child serial killer Charlie Manx—Vic has plenty of issues, and certainly wouldn't win any mother-of-the-year awards. But her intentions are good, and her fierce maternal instincts drive her to risk life and limb in order to protect her son, taking readers on one heck of a ride.


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chanelbonfireCHANEL BONFIRE by Wendy Lawless
Mother: Georgann Rea


In this riveting memoir, Wendy Lawless details growing up with Georgann, her beautiful, volatile, alcoholic mother prone to dramatic gestures that included multiple marriages and suicide attempts. From the outside, Lawless' life may have seemed privileged, but in reality it proves the old adage that money can't buy happiness. It's a wonder how Lawless is able to reflect upon her truly horrific childhood with both keen insight and wry humor.


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MotherKindMOTHERKIND by Jayne Anne Phillips
Mothers: Katherine and Kate


Kate is a poet in her early 30s, pregnant by her fiancé, Matthew, who is in the process of getting a divorce. Kate's mother, Katherine, has cancer, and when her condition deteriorates, she moves in with Kate, Matthew and his two young sons. The juxtaposition of Kate caring for her newborn son while tending to her dying mother is a moving reminder of both the cycle of life and the unbreakable bond and fierce love between mother and child. 


What do you think, readers? Which memorable, book-based mothers—in a recently published book or a classic—have stuck with you?

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