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Reader Seeking Books About Mothers ~ Lit Happens Book Club

Now, before you scroll, remember not all mothers are created equal. Hence, not all my book choices are novels filled with casseroles, white picket fences, Carol Brady, and Merlot.

But isn't that life?

Motherhood is messy.

I remember spoon-feeding my twins simultaneously in their high-chairs. Exhausted and on mom-autopilot, my days were a juggle of double diapers, naps, and their newest ability to crawl in different directions.

Swiping my finger across my baby's chin I caught his spit up, and without thinking, stuck what I'd caught in my mouth as if I'd just made a peanut butter sandwich.

I was horrified the moment I tasted the slobbery carrots and warm digested milk---but then, I immediately shrugged. Motherhood is messy. It's putting band-aids on imaginary owies so they'll stop crying; It's hiding vegetables in the marinara because they've refused to eat anything healthy for the past three days. It's blowouts and throw-up and snotty noses and temper tantrums. It's cleaning it up and doing it all over again because you couldn't imagine this beautiful, messy life any other way.

Motherhood is hard.

My childhood was a mixture of trauma and neglect. My mommy issues are constantly changing. With therapy, and as I've gotten older, I've found myself with a different outlook on the life I thought I knew.

When I was twelve years old, my mom dropped me off at Elementary school and never came back. I stayed with friends, bouncing around from home to home as if my life was just a series of sleepovers.

I hid it well. I never told anyone out of fear of getting her in trouble and being taken away.

And then, eventually, she came back---this time with a borrowed ladder. We broke into my childhood home and stayed there until my ex-stepfather got back from his vacation, arriving with the police.

Even though it's painful, I can now look at my experiences with my mom and identify the mental illness and addiction I didn't understand as a kid. That clarity has helped me not to dwell on all the "how-could-you" moments in my life. Moments that are more painful as an adult because I can look at my children and see myself at their age, going through unthinkable things.

But I can also approach my past with mercy. Motherhood is hard---that's the truth. It's doing your best, but feeling like it's never enough. It's worrying about them every single day for the rest of your life. It's trying not to yell, but yelling anyway. It's going to bed exhausted and waking up exhausted. It's homework and guitar lessons and science projects and all the things we pile onto our plate because we love them and don't want to fail.

Motherhood is beautiful.

I struggled with infertility for seven years. During that time, I put my body through a hormonal cocktail of fertility medicine and expensive procedures. Each month heartbroken and unable to conceive.

Then, after a successful IVF procedure in 2009, I became pregnant with twin boys; and then again in 2015 with my daughter. Every day I'm thankful for the technology, medicine, and doctors that helped me become a mother.

But the journey wasn't without fear. During my first pregnancy, I was silently terrified I'd end up like my mother---that I'd give birth and have this inability to nurture and love. My fear was unnecessary. I loved them before they existed, and when they were born, for the first time, I felt a love that was forever and unconditional.

Each of us experiences motherhood in different ways. From conception to delivery, our children are unique and so is the journey. There are heartbreaking moments. Tender moments. Moments of strength and perseverance you didn't even know existed within yourself.

Motherhood is a story we write as we go. Sometimes we scribble on tattered pages with tired hands. Other times we write with careful precision, composing page after page with all the love and hope in our hearts. We'll pause with worry, wondering if the ink we've used is permanent or if the story will change by someone else's hand. But we keep writing, keep turning the page because this story has no end. It's the love of a mother--endless and unconditional--it's the story written and told by us.

XO Poe


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Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect; and to 15-year-old Bee, she is her best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette vanishes. It all began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle -- and people in general -- has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, and secret correspondence -- creating a compulsively readable and surprisingly touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.


Room by Emma Donoghue

Held captive for years in a small shed, a woman and her precocious young son finally gain their freedom, and the boy experiences the outside world for the first time.

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack's curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating -- a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.


Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Eighteen years old and fizzing with optimism, Solimar Castro-Valdez embarks on a perilous journey across the Mexican border. Weeks later, she arrives in Berkeley, California, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant. This was not the plan. Undocumented and unmoored, Soli discovers that her son, Ignacio, can become her touchstone, and motherhood her identity in a world where she’s otherwise invisible.

Kavya Reddy has created a beautiful life in Berkeley, but then she can’t get pregnant and that beautiful life seems suddenly empty. When Soli is placed in immigrant detention and Ignacio comes under Kavya’s care, Kavya finally gets to be the singing, story-telling kind of mother she dreamed of being. But she builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else’s child.

“Nacho” to Soli, and “Iggy” to Kavya, the boy is steeped in love, but his destiny and that of his two mothers teeters between two worlds as Soli fights to get back to him. Lucky Boy is a moving and revelatory ode to the ever-changing borders of love.


The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

A twisty, compelling new novel about one woman's complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in death...

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had envisioned for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her desperate attempts to win her over. And as a pillar in the community, an advocate for female refugees, and a woman happily married for decades, no one had a bad word to say about Diana…except Lucy.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana is dead, a suicide note found near her body claiming that she longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body.

But the autopsy finds no cancer.

It does find traces of poison, and evidence of suffocation.

Who could possibly want Diana dead? Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad she’s gone?

Fractured relationships and deep family secrets grow more compelling with every page in this twisty, captivating new novel from Sally Hepworth.