A Mother’s Day Book List (Books About Mothers Make Great Gifts)
There’s only one week left until Mother’s Day! For those of you who have depleted the local Hallmark store’s collection of angel figurines with engravings like “Moms are heaven sent” and have to start looking elsewhere for your heartfelt gifts, or for those of you just looking to get in the spirit, this list of books about mothers and motherhood may be just what you need!
1. Room– Emma Donoghue
Ok, so we’re not starting off with the most cheerful of books, but don’t let that scare you away! Room is a multiple award-winning book narrated by five-year-old Jack, who has been held prisoner in a small room with his mother his whole life. Jack’s ma was kidnapped seven years earlier and has raised Jack between these 4 walls. She loves him fiercely and does all she can to create a life for him in the tiny space, dreaming of the day when they will both be free. But the room is all Jack has ever known, and he doesn’t believe that there is another world outside of it. Jack’s voice is the strange and compelling voice of a child who is both more learned and more naive than average, due to the situation of his captivity, and the story is both dark and light, painful and resilient.
2. The Memory Keepers Daughter– Kim Edwards
This multi-million copy best-seller is an intricate family story of love and grief. The novel starts in 1964, in a blizzard, with a father giving away his newborn daughter, Phoebe, who has Down syndrome to spare his wife the sadness he saw his own mother experience from a child’s premature death. He thinks it will be easier on her to believe her daughter died in childbirth but the rift between them after this lie only continues to grow. His wife, Norah, never gets over the “death” of her daughter and the dramatic irony the readers experience with their access to the knowledge Norah doesn’t possess, that her child is alive and growing up without her, makes for a gripping read.
3. The Birth House– Ami Mckay
Dora Rare is the first daughter in five generations of Rares in a small rural Canadian town. The Birth House is the early 1900s story of Dora’s apprenticeship to an outspoken midwife and the ways in which they help women through the struggles of childbirth, taking control of their own bodies, and finding sexual fulfillment. The arrival of a male obstetrician to the town causes conflict between the modern and traditional as the midwives are denigrated and even seen as witches (a conflict specific to the time and setting of the novel, but one that also continues to linger today). McKay captures the rural Nova Scotian tones in the dialogue quite well and the scrapbooked historical documents (even a vibrator ad from a local newspaper) give the book a diary-like feel.
4. The Joys of Motherhood– Buchi Emecheta
Well, “joys” may be a bit misleading. Buchi Emecheta’s book is a frank, exploration of womanhood and motherhood caught between tradition, colonialism, and capitalism through the story of Nnu Ego. Through Nnu Ego’s trials, Emecheta explores repressive attitudes toward Ibo women, the notion that a woman’s sole function is to bear sons, and the emotional turmoil of being physically unable to do so. In The Joys of Motherhood, motherhood brings Nnu Ego as much pain as it does joy; when she finally does have a children, she gives all she has and gets nothing in return. If it seems a bit dark, it is, but it also an amazingly written novel that bares its heart and its teeth.
5. Secret Daughter– Shilpi Somaya Gowda
A bit of a softer alternative, with many similar themes to other books on this list, Secret Daughter is a novel of fierce familial love and loss. In a small Indian village that values sons, a loving mother, Kavita, saves her infant daughter’s life by giving her away, a decision that haunts Kavita for the rest of her life. Her daughter, Asha, ends up in America, adopted from a Mumbai orphanage by a loving doctor who was unable to bear children. The novel explores the issues of infertility and the disregard for girls that Asha and Kavita experience through the interlacing of the stories of two families, connected by Asha, and the love that both mothers have for her. This is a subtle yet powerful novel that finds hope in the most dire situations.
And, finally, maybe you don’t have time for a whole novel this upcoming mother’s day, but you’d still like a little dose of sentiment! It’s that time of year, and all. Check out “The Meaning of White,” a short piece by Emily Urquhart (whose mother is famous author, Jane Urquhart) on her daughter’s albinism:
“There might be something wrong with Sadie,” I tell her.
There is a catch in my throat, and I can’t continue.
My mother, listening on the other end, does not hesitate.
“No one will love her any less.”
Hopefully, there’s a little something here for everyone: the thriller, the no frills, the sentimental, the historical, the short and sweet. Have a great Mother’s Day and enjoy at least one of these books (or stories!) about mothers.