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Mother, Mother

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  4,633 Ratings  ·  745 Reviews
Josephine Hurst has her family under control. With two beautiful daughters, a brilliantly intelligent son, a tech-guru of a husband and a historical landmark home, her life is picture perfect. She has everything she wants; all she has to do is keep it that way. But living in this matriarch’s determinedly cheerful, yet subtly controlling domain hasn’t been easy for her fami ...more
Hardcover, 366 pages
Published September 17th 2013 by Crown (first published January 1st 2013)
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Khadijah Masran In my opinion, the start was pretty dull. I hadn't finish the book but decided to reread the whole book from the beginning till the end. And boy was…moreIn my opinion, the start was pretty dull. I hadn't finish the book but decided to reread the whole book from the beginning till the end. And boy was it chilling. This book was full of suspense, if you're looking for a spine-tingling thriller, you got it. Totally worth the read; about a terrible person Violet calls "Mother". (less)

Community Reviews

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Wow. What a book! I'm glad Josephine Hurst isn't my mother. Jeez. The lengths a mother will go to gloss over the ugly truth about her emotionally-wounded, decaying family. I loved the alternating point-of-views from Violet and William Hurst. I felt a lot of empathy for them. Such a toxic family but what a thrilling, page-turning, well-written story. I bow down to Koren Zalickas. She's one hell of a writer. Nothing boring here. Dysfunction at its shameless best. A cross between Mommie Dearest, Ps ...more
Wendy Darling
2.5 stars Successful psychological thrillers usually rely on a couple of key things: interesting characters and the element of surprise. These characters aren't particularly nuanced, and are slotted into roles as if they're in a play, and I find it disappointing that the mother and Will in particular are so uninteresting and so very predictable.

The twists are also fairly easy to guess (are they not meant to be?), if not the exact circumstances of them, then certainly the possibility that they w
May 30, 2016 Dianne rated it liked it
Interesting study of a family in crisis - a mom, a dad, two daughters, and a son. The story is narrated by the middle daughter and the youngest son. The oldest daughter has run away. I don't really want to give away too much, so won't get into the plot. It's a blend of character study and mystery/thriller.

I liked it, but not as memorable as I'd hoped. Gripping at the beginning but by the end a bit overwrought and unlikely. Better on the character study end than the mystery/suspense end.

A solid 3
Patrice Hoffman
May 10, 2013 Patrice Hoffman rated it really liked it
Talk about a family with major issues and secrets. Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas is the exploration of a family who's matriarch is possibly one of the most vile, nutcases I have read in a long time. Mother, Mother is brilliantly twisted, engrossing, and makes those of us with "normal" parents thank our lucky stars.

It is evident from page one when William Hurst wakes to find his mother smiling down at him that maybe Josephine Hurst is a few cans short of a six pack. It could be that her husban
I’d like to nominate Douglas and Josephine Hurst for parents of the year. He’s an absentee father who’s doing a real fine job of drinking himself to death, while she’s a narcissistic mother who’d like to split ends with her family and the entire populace at large. If ever there was a case for the Emancipation Proclamation, the Hurst parents are the spitting image of what honest Abe had in mind, because I’d like to emancipate myself from this particular situation, and I only had to deal with them ...more
Jun 12, 2016 Brenda rated it really liked it
At first, I thought this family just had typical teenagers complaining about their parents. I thought the eldest, a 20 year old young woman, had just left home to live with her boyfriend. I thought the 16 year old daughter was just rebelling, and that the pre-teen son was now savoring the attention of his mother. Boy, was I wrong!

The author creepily reveals the underpinnings of the marriage and the family dynamics. Saying the family is dysfunctional is an understatement. I don't think I can give
I am a hopeless thrall for bad mommy books, and Mother, Mother does not disappoint. Josephine is the mama, a full-blown narcissist who plays nasty little mind games to manipulate her brood, with varying degrees of success. She specializes in keeping her family off-balance and questioning themselves, always fearing her reactions.

Each of her three children attempts to survive in his or her own way. Rose has just turned 18 and has finally made her escape from the home, pretty much disappearing fro
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

I was so sure this would end up a 4 Star book.

“If only people closed their eyes when Josephine spoke, maybe then they’d hear it: cat-woman crazy, fueled by sadism and bottomless need.”

Ohhhhhhhh, Josie the Soci (as in sociopath) was easily the character I most loved to hate so far this year. Ruling her family with an iron fist – or maybe more like a mental Münchausen syndrome by proxy – she has led to her husband to seek asylum in
Aug 01, 2013 ☮Karen rated it really liked it
After reading another book about secrets last week, I was just talking about how most of us put on a public persona so we are more likable to others, keeping our true thoughts to ourselves. In Mother, Mother, that’s putting it mildly. In fact, Mother, aka Josephine Hurst, is so despicable, she makes Joan Crawford look like Mother of the Year. She insists that the outside world think her family is picture perfect, that they’re living storybook lives, and no family member must ever besmirch that i ...more
Jacob Seifert
Jul 13, 2013 Jacob Seifert rated it did not like it
I was very excited for this book, especially after reading the interview with Zailckas on Shelf Awareness, but this novel commits the sin of telling too much and showing too little. Most of the family drama is revealed through summary rather than allowing the reader to witness it and then reflect on the nuances. I also found the writing to be imprecise and lackluster, and the dialogue was often melodramatic or boring. The results: little natural tension and no desire to continue reading. I am ve ...more
Diane S ☔
May 10, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
3.5 Narcissism is a disorder that I have just recently learned about, but it is certainly a horrible thing for the people who are in the path of a narcissist. This novel does a good job at describing the horrible psychological effects of the narcissist mother. Cannot help but feel for all the children involved. The husband, though he tried to redeem himself later in the book, was just bent on ignoring everything and drinking his way through life, instead of making the attempt to protect his chil ...more
Liz Barnsley
Jan 17, 2014 Liz Barnsley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All is not well with the Hurst family.

No indeed tell me about it! All is certainly NOT well with the Hurst family. But what, I wonder, could be at the heart of that disease? Well thats what Koren Zailckas looks at here – a family dynamic – and something at its core that is eating away at the whole.

Told from two points of view – that of the two younger children, Violet and Will, their elder sister Rose having escaped by running away a year or so before, a picture begins to emerge of a rather stra
Jul 19, 2014 Jennifer rated it liked it
I won this book via the goodreads giveaway in an exchange for an honest review.
This was a good page turner. A quick read. I love psychological thrillers, however this one didn't blow me out of the water.

The plot had potential to be very frightening. A family is torn apart by their abusive mother. The ways in which she controls her victims is terrifying. At times it felt excessive and unrealistic.
Josephine, the mother, was a narcissist and a psychopath. Douglas, the father, was a selfish alcoh
Mother, Mother I've been reading psychological thrillers like they are going out of print recently.  I think it's to do with the fact that I wasn't reading as much as I normally did for a long period, and a good psychological thriller has the ability to really grab me and keep me reading no matter what.  Told in the alternating POVs of the middle Hurst child, Violet, and the youngest, Will, Mother, Mother is an intimate, frightening look at how a family can go so very wrong on the inside, whilst ...more

Mother, Mother is a psychological thriller that unfolds in alternating viewpoints and does a fabulous job of drawing the reader in from page one. Violet sees Josephine her mother for who and what she really is: a flawed individual who could really benefit from some professional therapy, While, Will chooses to see his mother as smart, cultured, kind and loving. Will subconsciously knows the truth about his mother, but chooses (or is forced) to see her through “rose-colored glasses.” Speaking of r
Sep 13, 2013 Heather rated it liked it
Mother, Mother is a real page-turner. I could have plowed through it in about a day if I’d had the time. It’s fast-paced, the writing is simple, and the subject matter is of the I’m-feeling-really-uncomfortable-but-can’t-stop-reading kind.

I think Zailckas has a lot of potential and I certainly stayed interested enough to want to finish the book. I’m a very close, picky reader, though, and there were lots of things about Mother, Mother that I think could have been done better. With that said, Mot
Stephanie (Stepping out of the Page)
Mother, Mother is a story unlike any other that I've read before it. When I first read the blurb of the book, I thought it sounded fantastic - like something I would find fascinating, and it was, but it was actually so much more. This book messed with my mind, it made me unsure of who to believe, what to believe and as soon as I thought I had a stable idea of a character, I could turn the page and the author could shatter the illusion. Strangely enough, this is why it exceeded my expectations!

Jan 23, 2015 Jan rated it really liked it
Shelves: suspense
4.5 stars. This was a tough read, but any book that can under my skin and take me on an emotional roller coaster gets a thumbs up! Crazy attracts crazy, and there starts the building of a family with so much dysfunction you have to wonder when will it stop? Will we be hearing from Will again?
Dec 09, 2013 Leah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-copies
*Received in exchange for an honest review*
*Thank you, Harper Collins*

Wow, wow, wow. This book was so, so good and absolutely chilling. Mother, Mother explores the issues underlying the Hurst family, with some incredibly disturbing secrets. I have to admit I had a hunch about what had happened but I wasn't expecting the way the revelation was shared. It was such a dark, disturbing psychological read and is probably one of my favourite thrillers that I've ever read. It's difficult to write a revi
Caidyn (BW Book Reviews)
I'm going to start off with the good. I liked the narrator. She was excellent and really captured the voices of the characters. I could picture them in my head, the way they looked and acted. I could really differentiate them, which is just excellent.

And... that's it. That's all I liked. So, five stars for the narrator.

The whole book my reaction varied between this

and this

For about 30% of my listening to this, I was really on edge and excited. Because I had no clue what was going to happen. What
Apr 08, 2014 Joodith rated it did not like it
15 year old Violet has been admitted to the local mental hospital. Why? Because her mother Josephine, has accused her of attacking her 10 year old brother Will with a knife. Rebellious Violet has no recollection of the attack but does remember an attempt to get high on morning glory seeds. Will is mildly autistic, suffers from Aspergers Syndrome and epilepsy and is home-schooled by Josephine in what seems a very unhealthy relationship. The oldest sister, Rose, has not been seen since she escaped ...more
Vicky (A Backpack Full of Adventures)
Mother, Mother is typically one of those books which left such a great impression on me that I have no idea where to even begin. I’ve always been a big fan of psychological thrillers and suspense – both in terms of films and books – so even though I went into this book not knowing what to expect, I was secretly hoping it would render me speechless. And render me speechless it did. I finished reading it in late December and, without exaggeration, it’s been on my mind ever since.

There’s something
Jul 31, 2013 Natasha rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
Sometimes it is so difficult to give a star rating for a book. Did I enjoy this book? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? Most likely. There were just little nagging things that prevent me from rating it any higher.

The subject matter is tough to stomach yet makes for a great read at the same time. I enjoyed the fact that it's not just a story about a psychotic mother, but also how her behavior affects everyone around her and how it shaped the children she raised in different ways. The mystery s
Oct 23, 2013 Melissa rated it it was ok
Shelves: ladies-writin
The teenage daughter in this book references Valley of the Dolls like it's a bad thing, but as thick as the melodrama is here, I can't say that I wouldn't have rather read that book instead.
Heather Fineisen
Aug 13, 2013 Heather Fineisen rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley
Different and uncomfortable. You will read this knowing there is something not quite right, but you can't turn away. Oh, and that perfect mother next door? About her......

provided by publisher
Jun 24, 2013 Gabby rated it it was amazing
Koren Zailckas has written a book that is sometimes difficult to read, but it's fascinating from beginning to end. The reason it can be difficult to read is because of how horrific the Mother of this title is. She can be described as manipulative, deceitful, malicious... even evil, but those words still do not capture the irreparable harm she causes to those she professes to love most. She has stolen her children's lives from them by causing each of the three of them unimaginable stress, self-do ...more
I am blessed to have a lovely mother. She's supportive and funny and has always made me feel like I'm a good person. Sure, we've had our moments of butting heads, but overall we are close and I love her dearly. And when I read books like MOTHER, MOTHER by Koren Zailckas, I'm all the more thankful that my Mom isn't an abusive, narcissistic monster. I've seen moms like this, and I can't imagine how awful it must be. I didn't even know what I was getting into when I requested this book, as I though ...more
Jan 05, 2017 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This isn't an entirely flawless book, but it's a very, very good one -- not just more compelling but also, it seems to me, more real than any number of psychological thrillers with "Girl" in the title.

The tale is told alternately from the viewpoints of the children William (12 years old) and Violet (16) Hurst; their elder sister Rose departed the family home over a year ago to get away from alcoholic, workaholic father Douglas and manipulative, controlling, narcissistic, self-glorifying, at-leas
Sep 30, 2013 Patty rated it it was amazing
Mother, Mother
Koren Zailckas

My "in a nutshell" summary...

Josephine loves her three children...Rose, Violet, and Will...or does she?

My thoughts after reading this book...

Most of this story takes place in a small town...a suburb...not far from NYC. The Hursts are seemingly a normal family. However, their oldest daughter Rose has run away, middle daughter Violet is in a psych ward after an attack on her younger brother, and that brother, Will, is a pet of his mother. He has diagnoses of Asburger'
Aug 06, 2013 Sara rated it liked it
Shelves: thriller
There's something comforting about knowing from the very first page of a novel that you're dealing with a straight up psychopath. There's no beating around the bush, no wondering if so and so is really insane in the membrane or just misunderstood. The mother in "Mother, Mother" one Josephine Hurst is straight up, "Mommy Dearest", Dexter levels of bonkers and Koren Zailckas has no interest in hiding it. I like that.

Josephine is also, unfortunately, a wife and mother of three and every member of h
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Spoilers Will's Sexuality 1 17 Dec 29, 2015 08:54AM  
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“So apparently all homeschooled kids spoke like pretentious liberal arts college students.” 6 likes
“Sociopaths have no conscience. Narcissists have no empathy. Neither one thinks other people are real. Narcissists think other people are just ego food, tools or extensions of themselves.” 4 likes
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