From the outside, the Hursts look like the picture-perfect family: a beautiful home; the tech guru father Douglas; two beautiful daughters, Rose and Violet; and a brilliantly intelligent son Will. Josephine, the mother, can certainly credit herself with this perfect facade. But after the oldest daughter Rose takes off with her mysterious boyfriend, the ties that bind them all begin to unravel. And on one tumultuous night, violence erupts. Will’s hand is badly injured and Violet is hauled off to the psychiatric unit. Fingers are pointed, and she is targeted as the perpetrator.

In alternating chapters, we see the world through the eyes of Violet and Will. Each of them has a very different view of the family, and most especially the mother. But this is a family dynamic that soon begins to reveal itself as a very pathological one. Will’s view of his mother is strongly biased by his “favored child” position.

Josephine has a way of making herself the center of the universe, and chooses on whom to shine her benevolence, depending upon which child is pleasing her at that moment. Her narcissism is overwhelming, and as time passes, Will, who is “gifted” by her benevolence at this point in time, seems to hover between sanity and insanity.

Meanwhile, in the psych ward, Violet is learning more about how her mother’s manipulations have affected all of them. But will she be able to bring anyone around to seeing things her way? What will have to happen before the truth about their family is revealed? And as more and more of the deadly secrets unfold, who can save them? Can anyone be redeemed?

The story made me feel a bit unbalanced, just trying to stay on top of of Josephine’s machinations; I could not stop reading, wondering what she would do next. Dark, disturbing, and totally captivating, Mother, Mother: A Novel is a tale that makes me very happy not to be part of this family. Five stars.

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