ARC review, book review, horror

ARC review: Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth

Abby spirals after her ‘normal’, reliable husband becomes depressed following his mother’s suicide.

First of all I want to mention how much I love the book cover. It’s so retro and delicious, and I love how it references key aspects of the book.

I wouldn’t call this a horror book, in the traditional sense, even though it deals with the very real horror of parental rejection.

What I liked: The characterization is spot on. It shows three different people with three different relationships involving difficult, abusive mothers, and how each child copes as an adult.

The book is told from Abby’s point of view, and I love how the author handles the nuance of personal perspective. We see everything filtered through Abby’s prejudice, emotions and mental illness, yet we are given enough information to build a more three dimensional view of the story world and characters.

Abby considers herself worthless, has low self esteem, is emotionally stunted, and lacks effective social skills to deal with people. She swings from thinking everyone hates and despises her, inferring every look and comment as a rejection, and then jumps quickly to love and devotion when given the slightest kind word. She tries to make herself necessary to others by seeing to their every need, ignoring the void within herself by filling the holes in others, most notably the lack of love and approval in her husband. Like many people who lack adequate parenting, she desires to have a huge family, seeking unconditional love and validation in children who have to need and want her.

Her guide book in life is a cook book written in the 1930s, which has chapters on how to be a good wife, mother, and woman.

She is excellent at examining the dysfunction in her husband’s relationship with his mother, while remaining oblivious to the issues with her own behavior.

As a character study, Abby is exceptional. The author perfectly captures the mindset, reveals the wounds, and highlights the petty squabbles that erupt while larger issues go ignored.

What didn’t work for me: Abby’s mother in law is only 55, yet she behaves much more like the octogenarians Abby looks after in the nursing home where she works. Her ‘old-fashioned’ names for things and behavior kept pulling me out of the story.

Midway through the book, the story ran out of steam. This book is about Abby and inter generational trauma, so there isn’t really a plot, and this became obvious near the end of the second act, when the entire treatise has been unveiled and the characters stagnate in repetition. This leads to an uncharacteristic and poorly thought out third act ‘twist’, that fails to land literally or figuratively.

In conclusion, I think this would have worked better as a novella. There are no simple answers or quick solutions to the problems depicted in this story, so it makes sense that there’s no conclusion for these characters. However, I think the author missed an opportunity with making more of the metaphorical possibilities of the speculative elements in order to produce a more satisfying narrative.

Motherthing will be released on 27th September 2022.

I award Motherthing

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC. I’m voluntarily leaving an honest review.

4 thoughts on “ARC review: Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth”

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