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A Day for Mothers

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Mothers; we all have or had one, or at least know one. For many of us, our mothers are the most influential persons in our lives. To quote the poet Robert Browning, “Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” Literature is full of mothers both good and bad. Think The Scarlet Letter, Little Women, Les Miserables. Because we celebrate Mother’s Day this month, read a book that examines the challenges of being a mother.


Here are a few suggestions:


My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

I have probably recommended this before, but it is an excellent example of that mother-daughter bond that never really dies. Lucy Barton spends 9 weeks in the hospital recovering from an infection following an appendectomy. Estranged for many years, Lucy’s mother visits her in the hospital, where they share stories from Lucy’s unhappy childhood growing up in poverty in a small Illinois town. Yes, it sounds depressing, but it is a profoundly moving story. Elizabeth Strout’s new book, Anything is Possible, is also available, and is linked to Lucy Barton by the setting of her hometown, Amgash, Illinois. While you’re at it, you might as well read Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Abide with Me for examples of less-than-perfect, but very human mothers.

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

I remember reading this 1996 Oprah book club novel unaware of the intense emotional involvement I was making. Readers beware as you experience every mother’s worse nightmare—the disappearance of a child. Although told through the eyes of the mother, Beth, it’s really the story of the family, how they are affected and how they survive.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room is another book I’ve recommended before, but it fits so well into the good mother category, I recommend it again if you haven’t read it yet. Again, beware of the emotional involvement as you live through the fierce and selfless devotion of a mother for her child under the worst possible circumstances. Jack is a five-year-old boy whose entire existence is an 11×11 room he lives in with his mother. How they survive, before and after, makes for a heartbreaking but very exciting, warm story about a mother and son relationship.

Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry

This Pulitzer Prize-winning author (Lonesome Dove) wrote a less epic but endearing portrait of an eccentric mother and her only daughter. I heard Larry McMurtry speak at a book signing once many years ago, and when asked his favorite character, he said, “Emma" (Terms of Endearment). I found this interesting, although he did not elaborate, but I, too loved this book about a widow’s fierce love for her daughter.

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Sofer

I’m a foodie, so combine a good story with food and I’m in. This is the story of Lorca, who is being sent off to boarding school by her mother, a gifted chef. Lorca resolves to track down the recipe for her mother’s ideal meal, and learns about life in the process. This mother/daughter relationship (and food!) is the focus of the story, and one all mothers can enjoy.

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