The pandemic has meant lots of us have not been able to see or visit our own mothers for a whole year or more. There are many who are dealing with the pain of having lost their mothers during this time. For those of you who are yourselves mothers – whether you’re homeschooling, working from home or not for whatever reason, worrying about work, finances, the mess in your home, the amount of time the kids are spending staring at screens, or generally feeling like you’re doing a rubbish job – fear not, you are not alone.
I have put together some of my recent reads about the joys and sorrows, fears and hopes of modern motherhood. They’re not all pandemic-specific, but a lot of them focus on the big eternal concerns as well as the minutiae of mothering. Sad or funny, long or short, thrilling or thoughtful – I hope there is something here to suit different tastes.
And the best part is, you don’t have to be a parent to enjoy any of them!
So take a look below, at my Six Striking Titles for Mother’s Day:
Zikora – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Anyone who has given birth, navigated the ups and downs of a mother-daughter relationship, witnessed the breakdown of romantic relationships and seen how the birth of a baby can heal generational and cultural rifts will relate to this short story. Beautifully written in Adichie’s inimitable style, there is so much of it that is recognisable, and not just to women of colour. In a short space the story explores women’s relationships with and expectations of: partners, parents, careers, children, and in and amongst all of that, themselves. Highly recommended.
Whisper Network – Chandler Baker
Set in Dallas, this novel follows a group of high-flying female corporate lawyers as they juggle their work and private lives. The main theme of the novel is the misogyny endemic in some of these work environments, and the pressure of having it all. It certainly gives a glimpse into the shiny lifestyle of these women who earn six-figure salaries but for me the scene that sticks in my mind was one involving one of the characters, who had recently given birth, crying over spilt breastmilk in the staffroom. Think a more white, more privileged version of Big Little Lies; if that’s your type of thing, you’ll like this.
The Almost Mothers – Laura Besley
This collection of short vignettes was so different in form to what I’m used to reading, but I was surprised by how moving the stories were in just a couple of pages. If you love a well-crafted short story, you will enjoy these flash narratives. Innovative in style without compromising on readability, these are fresh, original, funny, tender and sad. Each story depicts different experiences of motherhood, from joy and love, to boredom and guilt, to depression and grief. Some standalone, some leading on from others, but all of them powerful in their incisiveness.
All The Water In the World – Karen Raney
A poignant, thoughtful novel about being the mother of a child with a terminal illness. Raney’s prose is exquisitely layered with imagery and symbols, with a strong sense of setting and sympathetic characters. Eve is a devoted mother, but the real heroine is her teenage daughter, Maddy who is spirited, honest and intelligent. Raney’s depiction of the grieving mother is nuanced; she's still a human being who can still make mistakes. We don't just feel sorry for her. We judge her and get exasperated with her. I thought Raney really captured a sense of someone trying to stay afloat in their own emotional currents. Read my full review about it here.
Daughter – Jane Shemilt
It’s called Daughter but it’s really about the Mother. A page-turning thriller about what looks like the abduction of a teenage girl, and a mother’s efforts to uncover the truth. Shemilt is brilliant at building a sense of foreboding and ratcheting up the tension. She raises questions about class, prejudice, the meaning of emotional neglect, and whether we do really know our own children. The twisty ending becomes a little far-fetched, and felt a bit rushed after the long lead-up to it, but I certainly couldn’t put it down. Read with a pinch of salt.
Where Have We Come – Saz Vora
Based on Vora’s personal experiences, this emotional novel explores the stages of coming to terms with being the mother of a child with a terminal condition. It depicts the shock of finding out that something is wrong, while still recovering from giving birth; the endless conversations with specialists, to-ing and fro-ing from the hospital, the pressure it all puts on relationships, and finding moments of happiness in a new life, however short. Vora’s novel also opens up a much-needed conversation about culturally-held beliefs in Indian communities about pregnancy and childbirth, and some of the stigma around being parents of a disabled child. There is certainly space for more stories on difficult themes like this from a South Asian perspective and I’m glad Vora has paved the way. Read my full review here.
Are there any other books about mothering or parenting that you recomend?
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