The Sunday Salon: Memorable Mothers

It’s Mother’s Day in the US, so I hope all you moms are celebrating and being celebrated !  Today’s post was inspired by a recent NPR piece on books about mother-daughter relationships.  I’d read two of the three books featured, and that got me thinking about other memorable mothers in literature. I came up with four very different examples (click on the titles for my review of each book):

We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver

Everyone I know who’s read this book feels compelled to talk about it.  The harrowing plot, the tragedy, the family dynamics, and Kevin’s mother, Eva, all need to be explored in great detail.  To what degree did Eva’s personality, her character flaws, and her behavior affect Kevin?  Could she have done anything to prevent the tragedy?  I read this book more than three years ago.  It still haunts me, and I still don’t have any answers.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Oh, Mrs. Bennet, what a character!  Her crass and outspoken nature made me laugh again and again.  And yet, she makes it her life’s work to find husbands for all five of her daughters, thus securing their future.  It’s clear she loves them all dearly, and will do anything for them.

To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf

The family matriarch is at the center of this novel; part 1 in particular shows her importance in all of life’s minute details.  Nothing escapes her; she finds a way to care for every member of the family, and even her guests, simply through her watchful eye and a careful touch.

The Hills at Home, by Nancy Clark

This is my non-traditional pick, because Lily Hill isn’t actually a mother.  But she opens her home to an extraordinary collection of family members, and cares for them all over the course of a year.  This novel also features two very different mothers:  Becky, the traditional wife and mother, and Ginger, recently separated from her husband and fiercely committed to her teenage daughter, but unable to show it.

These are just a few of the books in my library featuring mothers.  Others include Room, Beside the Sea, March, The Optimist’s Daughter, My Sister’s Keeper, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter … and more.

Who are your favorite mothers in literature?


Read more from The Sunday Salon here.

9 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Memorable Mothers

  1. LOL. I hadn’t read your post yet and posted the same question on the Orange January/July Facebook page! Great minds think alike!

    So, to answer your question here, I chose Olive Kittteridge. She was tremendously flawed (but aren’t we all), but as the book continued, I really admired her as a mom, especially when she visited her son in NYC. A great book!

    Make sure to stop by and tell us who your favorite literary mom is!

    Happy Mother’s Day!

    =) Jill

    • Olive is a great choice, Jill ! I loved the story about her visit to NYC also. I recall that as a new side of Olive that didn’t come out in the earlier part of the book.

  2. Mrs March from Little Women for all the right reasons; Mrs Morel from Sons and Lovers for all the wrong reasons (she is insufferable and not in a Mrs Bennett way but a throw-book-across-room frustrating way).

    Happy Mother’s Day, Laura.

  3. I like to read books about mothers and daughters…these themes do seem to show up a lot in the books I read.

    Recently, I read a book called Mothers and Daughters, by Rae Meadows…memorable!

    Jennifer Lauck’s memoirs spotlight mothers in a different way, like her newest one, Found.

    For a lighter touch, check out Wendy Wax’s newest, Ten Beach Road. In my SS today, I’ve linked to a guest post in which she talks about mothers and daughters.

    In one of the fiction books I read (I think it was Mothers and Daughters!), one of the characters was reading To the Lighthouse, which makes me want to read it, too.


  4. I think my favourite has to be Ma in the first half of Room. I wasn’t too impressed with her behaviour in the second half, but I’ll forgive her considering the circumstances 🙂

    Happy Mothers Day!

    • Jackie, interesting comment on Ma in Room, and the difference between the first and second half. I can cut her some slack as well, recognizing that adjustment would be just as difficult for her as for Jack. But she’s definitely a memorable mother !

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