Maternal bonds have always been one of the most enduring themes in literature. With Mother’s Day coming up let’s take a look at these examples of important mother-child stories.
The Good Mother by Sue Miller (1986) Recent divorcee Anne Dunlap lives for two things; her young daughter Molly and her lover Leo the first man to awaken sexual passion in her. But then her relationship with Leo is used against her by her ex-husband in the custody battle for Molly. Miller examines how society has such rigid attitudes towards maternity and remains uncomfortable with the idea of mothers as sexual, autonomous beings in their own right. In 1988 it was adapted into a movie starring Liam Neeson and Diane Keaton.
Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987) Set after the American Civil War, this devastating novel of grief and guilt examines the legacy of slavery through the story of Sethe an escaped slave who slays her own child rather than allow her to be re-enslaved. It was a finalist for the 1987 National Book Award, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, and is now part of the canon and assigned in lots of college classes. The 1998 film adaption stars Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (1989) Focusing on four Chinese American immigrant families in San Francisco you get three mothers and four daughters, (the final mother dies before the novel begins,) and their relationships with one another examining how the past is never the past and how trauma can echo across generations. It was a widely praised best seller that spawned a movie adaption in 1993.
The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante (2006) Middle aged divorcee Leda is alone for the first time after her daughters go to live with their father. Initially exhilarated by her sense of freedom an encounter with a young family prompts serious introspection as Leda considers whether she should have even had children in the first place.
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (2014) Single mom Jess Thomas has two jobs and two demanding children. But her (possible) salvation comes in the form of tech millionaire Geeky Ed whose house she cleans and who offers to help drive her family to the Math Olympiad so her genius daughter can compete. But Geeky Ed has issues of his own, this is yet another comedy/romance from the author of Me Before You.
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