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Reviewed by Jax Kepple

The seemingly perfect Hurst family has some serious issues. SERIOUS issues. I could kind of see where this book was headed, but when I got to the ending, I was still completely blown away. It was a huge twist, expertly pulled off by first-time fiction writer Koren Zailckas, who previously wrote a bestselling memoir. Mother, Mother tells the story of how dysfunction and narcissism can wreak havoc on children and the lengths people will go to to maintain a facade.

After their eldest daughter, Rose, runs off to New York City with her boyfriend, life in the Hurst household is never the same. Josephine cannot accept the fact that her oldest daughter Rose would give up acting, which she had pushed for Rose’s entire life, for science and that she would leave them. Violet, Rose’s younger sister, grapples with Josephine’s fixation and intense oversight on every aspect of her life and rebels by shaving her head, getting into hallucinogenic seeds and becoming a vegan. William, coming off of an autism diagnosis and some bullying at school, starts having seizures and becomes Josephine’s pet and her right hand assistant. He winds up being home schooled by Josephine, and she also helps him get dressed and flosses his teeth before bed. Douglas, the father, is an alcoholic who feels as though Josephine thinks of him as a loser, which makes him spiral out of control.

The action begins when Violet is admitted to a mental hospital, after tripping on some seeds and threatening her brother with a knife…or did she? She starts to get some hand written letters from Rose, and they begin to develop a friendship, something their mother had prevented them from doing while they were growing up. William decides to figure out who his dad is cheating on his mother with (Douglas keeps mysteriously taking calls), but instead uncovers some interesting things about Rose and why she left. All the while, Josephine is one step ahead, lying and manipulating the situation so that no one knows what is really real, what actually happened to Rose. The length of her selfishness and her calculating, shrewd manner was astounding.

The mini-cliffhangers at the end of each chapter were fantastic, and perfectly appointed to this thriller. Told in alternating chapters from Violet’s and William’s points of view, the quick pace and humor as well as the twists and turns were deftly handled by Zailckas with aplomb. The characters were fully realized humans, and they jumped off the page as the story progressed to a very satisfying (although not happy) ending. I wouldn’t wish a mother like Josephine on my worst enemy.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Crown. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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