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Sunday October 27, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday October 27, 2013 MYT 10:00:41 AM
By ABBY WONG
Two days of intense reading went by in an instant.
SOMETIMES an author wins by creating a plot so wacky and mindboggling that you hope such things do not exist in real life.
And sometimes, an author can be so unrevealing, and we as readers so unassuming, that we are taken for a ride, thrilled to death and frightened by the author’s sneaky antics.
And then there are also authors who love to pamper us with their figurative descriptions, so the images of gore and awe emanate endlessly from the pages.
The scary moments are scariest by these types of authors, and our brows knit tighter at every turn and twist, knowing we once again have been misled.
Koren Zailckas (don’t ask me how to pronounce her last name, please!) is such an author. For me, she seems to have come out of nowhere but actually, she has under her name two previous bestsellers – Smashed and Fury – books I have not read but I will, soonest possible.
Her third offering, Mother, Mother, is freaking me out with her immense talents, having woven a story that is simple yet profoundly dark, elegiac and mortifying. This book is like vodka – a genteel burn that scorches throughout but fans love it.
It is an understatement to say that I love this book.
It captivated me right from the beginning with a bang when matriarch Josephine Hurst sends her daughter to a mental hospital and accusing her of harming her on-and-off-and-on-again epileptic brother, Will. And right from the beginning one may be sympathetic towards Josephine, a seemingly devoted mother whose voice is always one pitch louder and whose persona seems way too refined to be vicious.
But slowly, one deception calls forth another, and Josephine reveals herself in the most menacing way.
Whenever the book is put down for a hiatus, I wager you’ll think about Josephine, trying to puzzle out what makes her the way she is and what stunt she’ll pull next to shock us once more. Though addicted to her lies, you’ll think of ways to help her, to talk sense into her or to ask her to stop altogether.
But you can’t, for Josephine does not speak for herself, as the book is told in the alternating voices of her daughter Violet, the one that is supposedly mentally-ill, and her epileptic (as well as autistic) son Will, the one allegedly harmed. Reading this book, therefore, is dizzying. Just as we find enough reasons to believe in Josephine, she turns darker and more vindictive.
And you may even groan at the book as I did when it lured me from the depths of sleep, making me crawl out of bed to continue from where I left off just a couple of hours ago, and keeping me guessing with every page and at every corner and every turn.
Such thrills, so incessant and mindboggling, coupled such exquisite prose and such descriptive language, make this book frustrating and tempting.
The epileptic Will “gasped for air” in the wake of a brutal revelation, while I gulped hard before turning a page to begin yet another chapter in the wee hours of the night. That kind of forcefulness at the end of every chapter is what makes this book a page-turner.
“I have got to read on, dammit!” you’ll hear yourself saying as I did.
That being said, though Mother, Mother turned out to be darker and way more addictive than I expected, the book, by and large, is somewhat predictable.
As an author, Zailckas is still young and has yet to reach a depth of storytelling at which she can be hailed as the next queen of thrillers.
Her ability to withhold the truth is contrived and the way things fall into place seems too convenient.
The crime is solved almost too easily (as it is at last confessed) and the most interesting character, Rose, the eldest daughter who was driven to death by the narcissistic Josephine, was not well developed – a pity.
Still, I see it as not only a novel with high potential to be adapted into a movie but also a story that will have readers reflecting on their own lives and searching for happiness of their families.
In an interview, Zailckas discloses that her own family is totally un-Hurst-like though she grew up in a family very much like them.
It is her hope that readers will recognise with a shiver that a character such as Josephine can exist and that such an intense neediness, manipulative nature, grandiose sense of self-importance, tendency to play favourites between her children are common traits of narcissism.
At last, I turned the last page after two days of intense reading, and realised it had been as gratifying as it was an eye-opening experience.
Psychological thrillers are not at all as boring as I had previously thought.
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mother mother, Koren Zailckas, book reviews
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