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The Lost Mother

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  890 Ratings  ·  142 Reviews
Since the publication of her astonishing debut, Vanished, Mary McGarry Morris has been compared with John Steinbeck and Carson McCullers and widely praised as “a superb storyteller” (The Washington Post) and “one of our finest American writers” (The Miami Herald). Now, in her sixth novel, Morris has achieved new heights with her riveting chronicle of the Talcotts, a family ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 10th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2004)
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Jun 20, 2009 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary McGarry Morris has written a touching, often disturbing novel. Her style is simple, yet moving and vivid. Set in rural Vermont during the Great Depression, the sense of loss and the lack of even the simplest of material possessions pervades the atmosphere of this book. Even the smallest glimmer of hope for "better times" is quickly dashed by the circumstances of life for these people in their struggles as they sink deeper into deprivation and suffering.

Henry Talcott, an itinerant worker, ta
May 27, 2015 Stephanie rated it liked it
I'm going to throw in my two cents just because I'm so irritated with all the reviews that call this book "bad" because it is sad. They are not the same thing. If you don't like sad books, try to avoid them. But if sad books were automatically "bad," then that would make most of the world's great literature "bad." Literature is about the human condition, which is not always rainbows and lollipops.

Now, to this book: it is not great literature. Not because it's sad, but because it's so implausibl
Aug 05, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book very much. It was a tale of hard times amidst hard times. The setting was the Great Depression but the struggles were not only grounded in poverty but in family values. The powerlessness of being a kid was the gripping theme. Terrible injustices and just plain bad luck attempt to defeat two siblings who try to find their way home to ordinary comforts that we take for granted. I wept with joy and ground my teeth in anger. I could not put this quick read down. I just had to kno ...more
Mar 07, 2014 Sterlingcindysu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book was written 8 years earlier, it has the same plot as Whistling Past the Graveyard in that a child/ren look for their mother who took off for greener pastures and suffer horrible events along the way. While I didn't really care for Graveyard, I did for this one.

First, the children represented acted their age. The older boy (12) does some nasty things to his sister (both verbal and physical) but you expect a kid that age to act out. You expect the sister to want pretty things to w
Jul 22, 2016 jimtown rated it really liked it
The impact childhood has on our lives can never be underestimated. Young Thomas finds life to be most unfair and he often takes his frustration out on his little sister Margaret when things get the best of him. He lets her kitten drown and tells her she's the reason their mother left. Still, Thomas cherishes Margaret as everyone does. She's a beautiful, well mannered and happy child. Or is she? Margaret has learned her role well. At first it seems she has an unfailing Pollyanna attitude about he ...more
Sep 15, 2008 Judy rated it did not like it
I HATED this book. Maybe that wasn't strong enough. I really hated this book. Why I finished it is beyond me. What a total downer. Oh no, I'm wrong. The last chapter was redemptive. Only you had to wade through hundreds of pages of total downer to get the 15 pages of everything turns out fine. This book features a runaway mother who ultimately turns her children over to an orphanage, then tries to adopt out the daughter to the wealthy couple who were horrible. Why you ask? Well, there's a creepy ...more
Judi/Judith Riddle
Aug 18, 2011 Judi/Judith Riddle rated it really liked it
The writings of Mary McGarry Morris almost alway contain stories that hit close to soul and pull at your heart strings. "The Lost Mother" is truly a tale of the human condition and anyone who has been a parent will relate to it, making it impossible to put down.

It is the story of a broken family in depression era Vermont. Henry Talcott is left with his two children, 12 year old Thomas and 8 year old Margaret, after his wife Irene leaves them just after the death of her baby boy. They are put out
Jane Brant
May 13, 2011 Jane Brant rated it liked it
The Talcott family in rural Vermont faces abject poverty during the Depression; the mother abandons the family to go to Massachusetts...her two children Margaret and Tom dream that one day they will be reunited. After much pain, hard knocks and sorry, the father rescues the children just as they are about to be adopted from an orphanage...the mother is still absent; she has turned her back on them. I did not like the level of unanswered "issues" regarding the mother...too many questions unanswer ...more
Lori Johnston
Oct 30, 2012 Lori Johnston rated it really liked it
Even though the topic of this book and the sad state of the children in this book just made me cringe, I thought the story was well told and well written. One might think that after being a foster parent for more than 10 years now I might understand all that can happen in someones life that they would abandon their children but still to this day, I find it so hard to imagine being in that position. I wish that no children would ever have to go through what these kids went through I am just glad ...more
Jan 26, 2016 Eliece rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is set in Vermont during the Depression as it is experienced by 12-year-old Thomas and his spunky little sister Margaret. The opening line says, "They said it was bad for everyone, but nobody else the boy knew had to live in the woods."
As the story begins, it is summer, so it does not seem so terribly bad to have to live in a tent. The worst thing is missing their beautiful mother who just up and left one day, supposedly to work in a factory. The children are c
Derek Davis
Aug 14, 2015 Derek Davis rated it really liked it
Morris has an uncanny ability to get inside personal motive and skewed mental states, but here I thought it was undercut by erratic plotting. The story's carried through the outlook of 12-year-old Thomas, whose beautiful but emotionally fragile mother simply left him, his father and his sister Margaret, without explanation, in Vermont during the Depression. His father, an itinerant slaughterer, can barely keep them in food and they're forced to live in a tent in the woods.
From there, things only
Apr 22, 2012 Carolann rated it did not like it
What an awful book!

I read almost a 100 pages and not one good thing happened to these people

The page I ended with a little girls hair was on fire, her scalp burnt.

This book is manipulative and dull.

I really felt like my emotions were being toyed with for no reason.

The author is content instead of writing a good story to just heap piles of gloom onto the readers head.

What a waste of trees and time.
I used to think Ethan Frome was the worst, this comes in a close second

May 19, 2014 Brandee rated it really liked it
This was a great book. I loved these kids and SO wanted things to turn out well for them. I think I loved them more than their own mother ever did! I wanted to get a chance to forgive Irene, or at least understand her a bit, but I never could. Never did like her; she didn't deserve those kids, or even her slightly Cretan husband. Why they all pined after her is lost on me. I reckon it is the missed love they wanted, not her...just for that gaping hole to be filled. Poor Thomas; he never gave up ...more
Molly Ewing
Jun 06, 2014 Molly Ewing rated it liked it
An engrossing summer read; deeply felt and well developed. The Lost Mother is the story of one terrible year during the Depression of the 1930's in the lives of two siblings forced to grow up too soon. Twelve-year old Thomas struggles with anger and pretty eight-year old Margaret learns to use her looks, as both of them try to deal with being homeless and abandoned by their clinically depressed mother. The children are surrounded by lies and lies of omission as they try to make sense of their al ...more
Audrey Glick
Dec 13, 2012 Audrey Glick rated it liked it
Relentlessly dismal, this is the depression era story of two young children whose mother left them with their father. He lost their Vermont home and the three of them lived together in a tent on what used to be his own property, until the new owner forced them out. The sadness goes on and on as the children refuse to give up hope that their mother will return. Whew! It's time for something light and fluffy!
Jan 29, 2016 Lorraine rated it really liked it
This is the heartbreaking account told by 13 year old Thomas during the Depression era. He lives in Vermont in a tent in the woods with his dad and his younger sister Margaret after his mother leaves to "seek a better job elsewhere."

A perfect example of how children interpret the mysteries of adults. With what little information his dad has told him as to why his mother left his innocence paints a different story than the truth and he is determined to find his mother, either to bring her home o
Aug 25, 2015 Nancy rated it liked it
This was a story of hardship involving two children, a brother and sister. Thomas is the older and feels very protective of his little sister, Margaret. Their mother left them several months before the story begins, when they are 12 and 8. Their father does slaughtering when jobs are available. This is set in the WWII era, so jobs are not plentiful. A time when the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and people have to do what is necessary to survive. Luckily, Thomas is very resourceful and wi ...more
Nov 11, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing
Yes, this was a sad book, but written honestly with well developed characters and a well drawn plot. Very believable, this is how life can be. Mary McGarry Morris is a terrific writer.
April Mitchell
Feb 18, 2015 April Mitchell rated it liked it
I don't know how to rate this book exactly. It wasn't that it was poorly written--actually it does a pretty good job of depicting rural life in the Great Depression. It certainly brought out the worst in people. But the reality of the depression is that it is, well, depressing.

Interesting example of how children protect themselves from reality by twisting it and creating logical explanations for the explainable. The story just goes from bad to worse, then from worse to desperate. By the end it
Kathleen Van Vickle
Jun 20, 2014 Kathleen Van Vickle rated it it was amazing
I loved all the layers of in this book. I wish we understood more about the adults' flaws, and why they made the decisions that they did, but maybe that's the catch. There were some very ordinary people, that did some evil things, but would never admit that because they thought their motives were pure. The writer did a great job bringing you into the 1930's depression era America. It is so hard to imagine, for alot of us, what being truly poor means; and the decisions that the adults had to make ...more
Marjie Smith
Jan 03, 2015 Marjie Smith rated it liked it
During the depression, a father in Vermont struggles to keep his son and daughter after they lose they property and their mother walks off. They live in a tent, while dad travels looking for butchering jobs. An opportunistic man who is buying up all the properties, has a strange, coddled son. The mother is doing everything she can to adopt the daughter of the butcher as a companion to her son. The remainder of the story tells the complications that arise, the losses and the triumphs as the famil ...more
Jan 21, 2015 Tessyohnka rated it it was ok
If you're looking for a tale of relentless hardship and injustice heaped on a 12 year old boy, this is the book for you. How can one poor child be surrounded by so many cruel and/or corrupt people? His father doesn't listen or take his side, his sister is like a stone in his shoe and Gladys, one of only two people good to him has an evil father. I can't imagine anyone reading this book and not rooting for Gladys to stick a sock in her fathers mouth and take care of those kids. All this and the k ...more
Tess Mertens-Johnson
Aug 01, 2011 Tess Mertens-Johnson rated it really liked it
This is a classic story of two children who had to grow up and be the adults in a family where the parents did not have the skill set to parent.
Thomas and Margaret are two children whose mother leaves them and Father cannot provide for them physically, emotionally or financially. They live in a tent and only have each other to hold themselves up. Local town’s people try you help them. It is a classic story of the cast system, how the gossip about town can tear people apart. The children drift fo
Mar 21, 2009 Kittiya rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Beck bug
This was a sad yet moving novel about a family's story from the 12 year old son view during the great depression. What Thomas and his sister Margaret go through, Which is quite a bit. Their mother kind of loses her mind after her youngest child dies. Then moves away not telling her children that she loves them are when if ever she will return. The father trying to keep the family together does anything he can. They end up living in a tent. And that's the better part of the children's lives in th ...more
Jan 18, 2014 Kaitlin rated it liked it
I liked this book, but I hate when reviewers make it harder to enjoy a book by writing impossibly lofty comments. Like, oversell much? This is surely not the only case (if I hear how Christopher Moore is like Kurt Vonnegut one more time I'm going about it all by myself like I'm doing now). Sorry to be snooty, but comparing Morris to John Steinbeck is like comparing Katy Perry to Aretha Franklin. Sure, Perry is entertaining - tell me you haven't had "Dark Horse" in your had lately ...more
Dec 29, 2009 Sandy rated it liked it
Recommended to Sandy by: picked from library shelf
This is a moving, well-written fictitious narrative by a young boy who lives with his little sister and his father in Depression-era Vermont. They live in a tent on someone else's land as they have lost their home, their land, and their father cannot find work and now his mother has left, ostensibly to find work, but that is only the excuse the father has given his children. Both children feel it is their fault that she has abandoned them. Thomas is 12 and struggling with all the 'wrongs' in his ...more
Lisa Weber
Sep 07, 2010 Lisa Weber rated it it was ok
I found this book to be a thoroughly depressing read. I actually listened to it on CD, and found I had to bring the CDs in from the car to finish them in the house so I could hear the end and get it over with!

The Lost Mother portrays the nightmarish lives of 2 children, 12 year old Thomas and his sister, 8 year old Margaret, who are forced to depend upon one another during the darkest days of the depression. The themes of family love, of emotional abuse, of violence done and the struggle to cont
Mar 01, 2012 Pam rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
This was a very good novel taking place during the height of the depression in rural America and, while it is essentially the same in many of the details that many other books (and History) have taught us about the times, this one was a little different in the family dynamics. Most of the characters (even those that are supposed to be good) were rather hardhearted or mean or selfish or just unable to function in an appropriate manner. The depression can be blamed for much of the terrible things ...more
Oct 18, 2009 Ann rated it really liked it
I have never read any of McGarry Morris' books before -- but plan to seek them out.
This was a beuatifully written book about a family in Vermont during the Depression. (shades of Steinbeck???) The mother abandons the father and 2 children -- and the book is primarily about the father and chidren's attempts to survive while hoping that mother will return.

It is often heart wrenching as the children try to fathom reasons mother left (the 12 year old son, especially, blames himself and when he is an
Chris Blocker

Comparisons run wild in the world of art. Music labels try to convice eager listeners that they have discovered the next U2. Galleries are filled with the paintings of the next Picasso. And every publisher in the world has the next Harry Potter in the works. If a comparison can be made, it is exploited.

I'd like to say that I am beyond such corporate trickery. Unfortunately, everytime I come across "the next [insert favorite band, artist, author here]" I find myself disappointed. Sometimes they'r

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As the author of several novels, Mary McGarry Morris has received considerable attention from critics and readers, as well as from prestigious awards panels.
Her books are noted for their depictions of mentally and emotionally impaired individuals who have difficulty coping with an inhospitable world.
As New York Times Book Review contributor Alice McDermott put it, “Morris does not devise plots,
More about Mary McGarry Morris...

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