Complicated Mothers: A Reading List

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My mother is not an unpleasant woman. She is kind, attentive and familiar with the ways of children in the only someone who spent their working life as a primary school teacher can be. Perhaps that’s why when it comes to be my reading life I have such an attraction to complicated mothers. Mothers who see their daughters as competition, mothers who see their babies as traps, mothers who don’t see their children at all, not really. Below is my list of mothers who make for great reading material, if also great therapy bills.

  • Before We Visit The Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
    This is practically a value pack of complicated mother-daughter relationships spanning three generations and two continents. The story is full of love and heartbreaking mistakes that echo through each character, and you won’t be able to leave these women until you’ve devoured every page.
  • Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
  • Carrie by Stephen King
  • Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offil
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
    When you’re allergic to everything, literally everything, it’s only natural that your mother would be protective of you. Hero Madeline Whittier’s small rebellions lead her to big secrets as she braves the world she doesn’t know for the boy next door.
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Flowers In The Attic by V. C. Andrews
  • Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  • If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
    The mother is this book is most notable for her absence, an absence she bestowed upon her two daughters after leaving them alone in a forest. Carey and Jenessa survive and our found by strangers, but their time among the trees leave them with scars and questions aplenty.
  • Man At The Helm by Nina Stibbe
  • Push by Sapphire
  • Roses And Rot by Kat Howard
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
    Of course Gone Girl is the book that gets all the attention, but this is the one that made me a Flynn devotee for life. The mother of this book, Adora, is cold and cruel in a way that makes her seem like a fairytale character.
  • Sula by Toni Morrison
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan
  • Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer
  • We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  • Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Lynn Crosbie
  • Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • White Oleander by Janet Fitch
    A textbook complicated mother, Ingrid is beautiful and selfish and dangerous, seemingly unaware – or at least unconcerned – by the tumult her murderous actions cause for her daughter Astrid. If there was a Complicated Mothers 101 Ingrid would play the starring role.
  • With Or Without You by Domenica Ruta
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

What are your favorite books about complicated mothers? Want more? We’ve got 100 of the best books on mothers and motherhood