I suspect when we read about less than stellar mothers, it makes us feel like we might have done a good job. Dysfunctional families in Gothic settings are my favorite characters. So, on Mother's Day, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you did a better job than these mothers:
1. Running With Scissor, by Augusten Burroughs - In this memoir, Augusten is given away by his chain smoking, poet mother at the age of twelve. He is given to her psychiatrist, an eccentric man living in a dilapidated house with a pedophile in the shed in the backyard. At times, the events are hysterical. Augusten tells the story as if it was his normal. Although he knows it was a bizarre childhood, he seems to be nonplussed by the events. Augusten's new family is worse than his mother's neglect. It is a stark reminder that not all children live in protective environments.
2. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls - I have read this book twice. I love the way Jeanette Walls writes. This memoir details the life of her mentally ill, alcoholic parents and their rejection of the rules and values of society. Jeanette's father, during times of sobriety, could be charming and charismatic, captivating his children with lessons in philosophy, geology, mathematics, etc, but when he was drunk, he was the father of dysfunction, and mom went right along with him. They frequently moved, "skeedattled" when the parents became restless. The children took care of themselves. The entire family was highly intelligent, but the parental figures were unable to conform to acceptable standards and provide a safe home for the gifted children.
3. The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr - This memoir gets my vote because it is set in familiar territory, an east Texas oil town. I love the new introduction that has been added, detailing Karr's family's reaction to the book. Karr says, "When fortune hands you such characters, why make stuff up?" Her colorful mother, a gun-wielding drinker said, "Hell, get it off your chest . . . If I gave a damn about what anybody thought, I'd have been baking cookies and going to PTA. This dysfunctional mother was married seven times, twice to Karr's Texas oil worker daddy.
4. The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides - Five beautiful daughters born to the religious Lisbons, are isolated and smothered by the pious, socially awkward parents. The prayers and positive intentions of the well-meaning parents imprisons the girls in an alternate world eventually leading to their premature demise.
5. The Shining, by Steven King - What else can you expect from Steven King. However, while the father, Jack Torrance became a raving maniac, Wendy watched, wide-eyed, not making a move to protect their son. She was a piece of work.
6. We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Leonard Shriver - While daddy seems to know there is something drastically wrong, Eva, the mother, is an enabler, maybe a little sociopathic herself. Weird and often disturbing, this book shows you how not to be the mama.
7. Tangled, a Southern Gothic Yarn, by Phyllis H. Moore - Much like Josephine in the Sabine Trilogy, DeCe is a hot mess. Her tragic childhood, combined with the family legacy of mental illness and alcoholism negates the financial inheritance that should have assured a bright future. Ghosts and a determined daughter help foster some compassion for DeCe, but she can make you want to slap a mama.