Mother, Mother, by Koren Zailckas

Publisher: The Crown
Release date: September 17th 2013 
Pages: 384
ISBN: 0385347235


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 family, and when her oldest daughter, Rose, runs off with a mysterious boyfriend, Josephine tightens her grip, gradually turning her flawless home into a darker sort of prison.

Resentful of her sister's new-found freedom, Violet turns to eastern philosophy, hallucinogenic drugs, and extreme fasting, eventually landing herself in the psych ward. Meanwhile, her brother Will shrinks further into a world of self-doubt. Recently diagnosed with Aspergers and epilepsy, he's separated from the other kids around town and is home-schooled to ensure his safety. Their father, Douglas, finds resolve in the bottom of the bottle - an addict craving his own chance to escape. Josephine struggles to maintain the family's impeccable facade, but when a violent accident leads to a visit from child protection services, the truth about the Hursts might finally be revealed.


Mother, Mother tells the story of a dysfunctional family, to put it lightly. The family is composed of an absent father, a controlling mother, an older daughter who ran away years earlier, a drug addict daughter (that may or may not be suicidal), and a younger son with Aspergers and epilepsy. The story begins when Violet, the middle child, is taken to a psychiatric hospital after an acid trip. Her mother claims she hurt her brother's (William) hand severely, that she is frightened for their lives. 12-year-old William echoes her words. Violet recalls none of the sort. But then again, she barely remembers anything at all from that night. And yet, she has reason to believe her mother is behind the whole ordeal. Perhaps behind even more than that.

First and foremost, let it be known that I am not a usual reader of psychological thrillers. In fact, I believe this may have been the first book I ever read in this genre. I was pleasantly surprised. 

This is the kind of book that once you begin to read, you have to will yourself to put down. "Just one more chapter" was something I murmured quite a lot to myself while reading it. That does not mean the book is flawless, however. But let's take this point by point.

When it comes to the plot, a lot of what was going to happen was predictable, but it did not detract from my enjoyment. Perhaps because it felt natural that the story would unravel the way it did. Yet, there was something off about the ending itself, which, for the life of me, I cannot put my finger on.

As for the characters, they felt very organic and diverse in thinking and acting, while sharing some key characteristics. As it should be in the portrayal of a family. They represented various types of addictions, various "issues" in society that are not very often discussed. With another writer, I would not be stunned if it felt overwhelming. That was not the case with Zailckas. But, once again, there was something I was not 100% happy with. Whilst most characters as painted in grey, one of them is not, and seems to have no "redeeming quality".

Concerning the writing itself, I applaud the usage of language and its adaptation to each of the two PoV, which were easy to distinguish. But sadly, the story had an overabundance of telling and a lack of showing. However, this was something I only noticed when I was done with the book, perhaps because I was immersed in the story.

In short, Mother, Mother is a very interesting story of family, friendship, secrets, and addiction. And one I recommend as an entry to this genre.

The book in a quote

"No-one changes quicker than a person you never knew to begin with."

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving

Publisher: Wildside Press 
Release date: March 1st 2004 (originally published in 1820) 
Pages: 108 
ISBN: 0809594080


The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite specter of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard. The story was immediately matched by a thrice marvelous adventure of Brom Bones, who made light of the Galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey. He affirmed that on returning one night from the neighboring village of Sing Sing, he had been overtaken by this midnight trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a bowl of punch, and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow, but just as they came to the church bridge, the Hessian bolted, and vanished in a flash of fire. All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone with which men talk in the dark, the countenances of the listeners only now and then receiving a casual gleam from the glare of a pipe, sank deep in the mind of Ichabod.

(taken from the story)


From Disney's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to the current TV series Sleepy Hollow, passing through countless other adaptations to the screen, I cannot recall not being fascinated by the tale of a headless horseman, riding through the woods in the dark with some murderous intention. However, I never had the possibility to read the original story. Well, not until recently.

Forget everything you've ever seen or heard about Sleepy Hollow. Forget the courageous and brainy Ichabod Crane. Forget the constant looming presence of a murderous horseman without a head. That story is not the one written by Irving. Yes, it is set in Sleepy Hollow. Yes, it does feature Ichabod Crane as the main character. And yes, there is a headless horseman. But this is not the horror paranormal story that everyone thinks of.

No, this is the tale of Ichabod Crane, a superstitious and, in my opinion, cowardly professor, who goes to Sleepy Hollow to exert his profession. While there, he falls in love with the beautiful and to-be-God-damn-rich Katrina Van Tassel. Or does he really love her? He decides to marry her for the benefit of, well, wealth. Unfortunately for him, another is competing for her hand. And this, not the terrors of the horseman, is the story of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

"So where does the supernatural come in?" You may ask. It is hinted throughout the story, but spoken of as stories that were whispered in parties. "And the horseman?" Why, right at the very end. I will not tell you how, why, or what happens, for that would be spoiling the whole story. 

Not that there is much to spoil in my opinion. In fact, I was sorely disappointed with the narrative in the whole. This is one of the very few times when I highly prefer the adaptation to the original. The characters were bland (not unlike "real" people, but bland nonetheless), the plot was virtuously non-existent, and the little plot that did exist was overshadowed by endless descriptions of literally everything. If these were isolated problems, I would have no issue with the story. But that is not the case. The only good thing I found in this tale was the language and the wording Irving used. Not enough to make me enjoy the story.

Perhaps I am wrong in all of these accounts. I'd like it to be so. Still, I can't shake the feeling that the 8-year-old me would be brokenhearted if she knew this is where the headless horseman comes from.

The book in a quote

"Just sufficient time had elapses to enable each story teller to dress up his tale with a little becoming fiction, and in the indistinctness of his recollection, to make himself the hero of every exploit."