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Missing Mom

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  4,108 ratings  ·  436 reviews
Nikki Eaton, single, thirty-one, sexually liberated, and economically self-supporting, has never particularly thought of herself as a daughter. Yet, following the unexpected loss of her mother, she undergoes a remarkable transformation during a tumultuous year that brings stunning horror, sorrow, illumination, wisdom, and even—from an unexpected source—a nurturing love.
Paperback, 464 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Ecco (first published October 4th 2005)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,108 ratings  ·  436 reviews

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Sep 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
I've read a couple of unfriendly reviews here, and I wonder why people need their protagonists to be flawless. This book follows Nikki Eaton as a self-absorbed, single-but-dating-a-married-man wild child through the discovery of her mother's murder and the year of grieving and discovery afterwards. Sure, she's a flawed character, but I still found her sympathetic and compelling - I also appreciate authors that paint realistic portraits of people and can still manage poignancy. People are complic ...more
Elyse  Walters
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This novel begins on Mother’s Day, 2004, in Mount Ephraim, New York.

Gwen Eaton, 56 year old widow - didn’t want her daughters Nikki or Clare to take her out for a meal. She insisted on doing the cooking herself. Mom’s a skillful cook, and a loyal volunteer.

Opening this story on Mother’s Day....was the perfect beginning. We get a fast and interesting understanding of the characters basic make-up... their personalities- their moral compass - their baggage - resentments & judgements.

Nikki is the
Cody | CodysBookshelf
I am now knee-deep in my twenties and find myself facing a recurring fear: the knowledge that, one day, I will lose my parents. At times it is almost crippling: the anxiety. Perhaps my parents’ deaths will not occur for another half-century, who knows . . . And I suspect it is a common fear.

In Missing Mom Joyce Carol Oates writes about grieving the loss of one’s parent(s) with her typical skill, insuring the experience is totally memorable and unlike anything the reader has experienced before.

Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
I picked up MISSING MOM a few months after my own mother passed away, and put it down. Her death was too fresh for me to read Joyce Carol Oates tribute to her own mother. Looking at the different reviews of the novel, many readers say that this is a departure for Oates. I have no clue, since I’ve never read her before; but I was still intrigued by MISSING MOM and finally read it.

Nikki Eaton is a reporter for the Beacon. She is hip. She wears her multi- colored hair short as her skirts are. She
Jan 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
Gosh i just could NOT get into this one! I gave it a solid try, too. There was something really off about the main character's descriptions of herself. Forced, rather second rate. Bummer!
Kristy Buzbee
Mar 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Missing Mom was a very emotional book - in a good way. The main character Nikki is a thirty-something, independent woman who thinks she really has no need for her mom, and her mom's attempts to stay in touch and stay connected are just a hassle. But when she loses her mother in an unexpected and horrible way, she realizes just how important her mother really was. This book chronicles the first year after her mother's death, and how she (and her other family members) cope with tragedy. It takes o ...more
Misha Mathew
Jun 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Joyce Carol oates has been one of my favorite authors. Missing , Mom just makes me love her even more.Interesting story that studies the psychological impact of losing one's mother. Its the truth... that no matter how independent and grown up we become , one's mother remains a strong presence in our lives.
Aug 27, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, fiction
‘It was the fate of mothers, to remember. What nobody’s else would know or care about. That, when they are gone, goes with them.’ (p. 397)

If you follow me, you’ve probably heard me mention Joyce Carol Oates a couple of times or more. She is one of my favorite authors. I’m not only impressed with her abilities as a writer, her way of using language, punctuation, italics as emphasis and much more but also her productivity and her constant high writing standard. I’ve never read a bad book by her. S
May 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I lost my mom in 2009. She and I were mostly at odds for many years. Somewhere in my 40s we began to reconcile. She stopped being so critical of me and I began to see her good points. Near the end of her life she needed 24 hour care and wished to remain at home. I honored that wish, left my job, husband, and home, and so spent the last three months of her life by her side. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. ( My wonderful husband was supportive of my choice.)

So I related to Missin
Jess Atkinson
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-challenge
This book took a long time to read--four months. There were times I had to put it down because it was just too real; given that Oates wrote it in the year after her mother's death, that reality is no surprise. Oates powerfully captures the clash of the numbing haze of grief with the frantic need to recapture what was lost.
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
The only other book I've read by Joyce Carol Oates was the depressing tome We Were the Mulvaneys. I thought this was going to follow in the same genre but it did improve on reading.

The story deals with the unexpected violent death (two days after Mother's Day) of middle aged mom, Gwen Eaton, as seen through the eyes of her immature, selfish 31 year old youngest daughter Nikki, an independent journalist who freelances with a local paper.

I found Nikki's ruminations to be grating and boring at tim
Lynne Wright
Mar 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
Joyce Carol Oates is a highly regarded writer -- and I DID love Blonde, an imagined account of being inside Marilyn Monroe's head.

But I can't imagine how this novel merited a Notable Book of the Year endorsement from the NYT Book Review. Well, unless they considered it notable for having been published at all in spite of being so sloppily written.

It reads like an early draft that Oates whipped off, ran spell-check on, then shipped out without running it through even a cursory edit.

Its full of
Jan 17, 2010 rated it liked it
This was a really interesting perspective. This book was recommended to me, and I read through it quickly. I felt it really pulled you in and made you kind of feel as though you were living the experience through the characters. As a young person who has lost a parent, I could identify with what the author was trying to put forth, but also embraced that the grieving process is very different for each person. This was apparently in the book by the various people in the book who recounted their ow ...more
Apr 27, 2009 rated it liked it
I read this book right after my mom died and while it was hard to read about someone else having that happen so soon after I did, it put things into perspective for me. She could have died in a way like the mother in this book did and I was lucky that never happened. Also, it reminds me of a joke my uncle made when he saw it.
(He looks at the title)
"Sarah, your mom is not missing. We know where she is."
And that was the first time I laughed since she died:)
This book describes the life of a typical American family and how they learn to mourn their loving parents.

Even if the theme seems quite depressive since the author managed to describe in a realistic way and with some sense of humor what people normally do after a sudden death of one of their parents.

It seems that this book reveals the author's own experience after the recent loss of her mother.
Jul 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved the main character in this book, and the dialogue between the middle-aged ladies in the story was so realistic I almost threw a fit. This was an amazing book, which is not surprising considering the author.
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very well written. I love this author now. Some parts sad some parts laugh out loud funny. Really puts ideas together well. I’m on to another of hers....
Jul 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jco
This book reminded me so much of We Were the Mulvaneys. I really liked this book. I loved the character Nikki. Despite some of the reviews which suggest she lacked depth, or was too flawed, I found a unique relation to her. I think she represents a certain selfishness inside of us all. We tend to forget our parents had lives before we existed. They had hopes and dreams and secrets that we were not a part of. Our parents were individuals. I think there is a selfish tendency in us all to take for ...more
Jessica Stephenson
Jan 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Love love love this book! I must admit, I picked this up for pure catharsis, having lost my mother recently, unexpectedly, tragically as well. I saw so much of myself, my experience, my affliction in Nikki Eaton, and so much of my own mother in Gwen. I've been absolutely stifled and unable to accept my mother's untimely death, but reading this novel has helped me begin to *think* about coping. Oates' alliteration to phantom limbs, ghosts, nervous expectations-- all of these are things that she m ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

"This is my story about missing my mother," Nikki says at the start of Missing Mom. "One day, in a way unique to you, it will be your story, too." Although many critics compared Missing Mom to Oates's classic, We Were the Mulvaneys, they agreed that the latter is the far superior work. Reviewers thought Nikki inconsistent and uneven; other characters came off as flat. Only the mother remained in their minds as a magnificent, realistic character__one of Oates's best to date, in fact, since Oates

Emma Monfries
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a really great read. The story begins with Nikki, a tough, modern, independent woman, going to her mother's house for Mothers Day. Gwen, her mum, is derided by Nikki's sister, Clare, a self-important know it all who is, frankly, a horrible person, as being too nice, too trusting. As proof, Gwen has invited lots of other misfits to 'their' lunch. At the end of the day, Nikki is glad to return to her own life a few towns over, and her married boyfriend whom she's waiting to marry. Everythi ...more
Stacy Saunders
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Here’s to moms. Without moms, where’d we all be?” quips Nikki Eaton, toasting her mother Gwen on Mother’s Day. Two days later, Nikki is suddenly, though an act of inexplicable violence, without her mother. This novel tells the story of Nikki’s first year missing her Mom. It is a year of moving back into her mother’s house and wearing her mother’s clothes. It is also a year in which Nikki discovers some startling secrets of Gwen’s past. These revelations are difficult for Nikki to reconcile with ...more
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've read several books by Joyce Carol Oates, and I've never been disappointed. Having lost my mother years ago, I could definitely relate to Nikki when she spoke of "feeling" her mother in different situations. It's a sadness and a happiness all rolled up into one, and I think Ms. Oates portrayed it perfectly.
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book just never got went on and on and on and on. Until finally it was done. Mom's have secret lives. They collect notes from their kids. Then they die and the kids learn about the secret lives and find the notes. Oops - was that a spoiler?
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This ended up being one of my more favored Oates novels, certainly the one I liked best in any recent time. Some of the ones I've picked up more recently seemed like exercises, masterfully done as they were, but this one had all of the urgency and humanity and reason for being that is in the writing of Oates I like best. I did feel on the going in side of the murder that it was just a bit too contrived, that another death would have seemed less designed, but it certainly fit what came after. I c ...more
Eszter Balazs
Jan 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
At least, “Tried to read”. This is not good writing. With some sparks of ingenious literature here and there, but most of the time the bestsellers’ style: overwritten, shallow, repetitive. The review is slightly unfair: I had to give up the book halfway through, to save precious reading time. My first and last Joyce Carol Oates.
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
A satisfying read. The book has a nice story arc.

Does Nikki have any friends? They were strangely absent. And the long scenes with Alyce and Aunt Tabitha seemed formulaic, but this is a small complaint.

Oates seems to be a patron saint to "wild" girls, independent women, any female who does not follow the standard operating procedures. She writes about them, tells us about them, helps us understand them. Does she see herself as one? I know almost nothing about her personally.
Graham Wilhauk
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
At first, I thought this one a little drawn out and forgettable compared to JCO's other works. However, it grew on me. I still think a good deal about this book and I'm happy to still call myself a fan of it. Here's the best part though:


Yep, it's official. JCO is my favorite author. If an author's weaker works get a 4 out of 5 with how much she writes, she's the better one. "The Secret History" is still my all-time favorite book and I will never
Steve Betz
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Missing Mom was a novel written in the aftermath of Oates’ own mother’s death. In it, Nikki Eaton, a sexually promiscuous “free spirit” in her early 30s deals with the unexpected death of her mother, who was a pillar in her upstate New York town.

In Nikki and in Chataqua Falls, Oates returns to the types of characters and places that have defined so much of her writing. A somewhat directionless woman, who is often the object of others actions and priorities: her mother’s ministrations, her contro
Jim Leckband
I'm not sure Oates has a target audience, unlike some authors. Her work is so divergent that pinning a label or genre is useless as her next book may be entirely different. But with this one I feel a little bit out of the target audience: as of this writing I am neither a mom nor a daughter.

There is the trademark Oates violence, it is rare that a book of hers doesn't have a violent event. But what this book mostly is about is the intriguing story of how a daughter finally comes to know who her
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure ...more

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