Good Books for Bad Moms

Originally published May 2016

With Mother’s Day around the corner, chances are you are either debating what to buy your own mom, or wondering what your kids are planning. And while a month-long sabbatical in one of those glass-bottomed huts over the ocean bay in Bora Bora may be on the wish list, the odds of buying or receiving plane tickets are slim.

But a book? Always a safe bet. And a reasonably priced one, to boot.

Me? I always like to read about bad moms that are far, far worse than me. Oh, I may give a few a run for their money, but some literary mothers are just plain deliciously evil. Or morally ambiguous. Or maybe just in need of a little attention. In any case, the end result is often a boost to my oft-pummeled performance.

Here are a few great suggestions for yourself or the mom in your life this May:


The Nest (Cynthia D. Sweeney)

I just finished Sweeney’s debut novel (review coming up!), and while it centers mostly on four siblings and a squabble over inheritance, I laughed out loud at exactly how ridiculous of a mother Francie Plumb must have been to these kids—with one especially horrifying passage narrated by daughter Melody, detailing the only birthday party she had as a child when her mother greeted she and her friends at the front door with martini in hand, declared one of the sixth graders a lesbian and marched them outside into a Long Island February to play Pin the Tale on the Donkey. Yikes.


The Dinner (Herman Koch)

How far would you go to protect your kid, and at what cost to yourself and the rest of the family? I mean, there’s devotion, and then there’s “Well, he murdered someone, sure, but he was practically homeless, so, he was doing society a favor” crazy ass blind devotion.


Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)

Anyone who’s ever been grounded and is hating on their mother is convinced she is worse than the maternal brood that is the Dollanganger clan. And if you didn’t read this series as an angsty teen? I don’t want to know you. It’s like the Aaron Spelling version of the Boxcar Children.


Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (Maria Semple)

I loved, loved, loved this book and the batshit crazy that is Bernadette Fox, on the run and leaving a daughter, Bee, behind to try to figure out the mystery that was her mom. Some people, especially the crazy ones, are simply misunderstood.

A few other great choices:

Motherland by Amy Sohn and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: Both cover the whackadoo worlds that make up competitive parenting. If you like yours on the freaky side, go with Sohn. I guarantee you’ll drop the book at least three times.

The Leftovers by Tom Perrota: If abandonment issues are your thing, this is an amazing novel that includes several plot lines about moms leaving and moms losing. Scary good and an excellent show on HBO, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s