Crazy Mothers and Other Novel Models of Maternal Excellence by Ada Calhoun

Illustration credit: Jo Gay

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, ReadThis asked Ada Calhoun, parenting expert and author of the new Instinctive Parenting: Trusting Ourselves to Raise Good Kids, to give us her list of favorite mothers in literature. Let us know who is on your list.

1. HOUSEKEEPING (1980) by Marilynne Robinson
This is one of my all-time favorite books and I re-read it all the time. It’s about death and memory and longing and also about how some kids need mothers who iron and go to PTA and other kids need something else entirely.
Moral: Sometimes crazy, wanderlusty aunts make the best mothers.

2. THE HOME-MAKER (1924) by Dorothy Canfield
I just gave this to a hardcore feminist friend as a bridal shower present because it’s one of those things, like marriage itself, that seems kind of traditional and staid but is in fact crazy complex and interesting.
Moral: It has never been easy to figure out who should work and who should stay home with the kids, but with a creative conspiracy, you can make it work!

3. MILK (2007) by Darcey Steinke
Religion and sex and nursing — this book has everything. In its super evocative language, it reminds me of Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat world.
Moral: Motherhood can be a religious experience.

4. A LIFE’S WORK (2001) by Rachel Cusk
Okay, it’s a memoir, but it’s by a really good novelist, and it wasn’t my experience of new motherhood, but I still think about it a lot and I know  people who related to it so much they feel like it saved their life. Also, I really loved Cusk’s novel In the Fold, which is not about parenting except insofar as everything is.
Moral: Yes, it’s normal to sometimes feel your identity has been destroyed by parenthood.

5. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1813) by Jane Austen
Yes, Mrs. Bennett is super silly and not real bright, but she also raises this whole army of daughters and has a nicely challenging marriage with her long-suffering husband and she has her eye on the prize when it comes to getting her girls advantageous marriages.
Moral: Remember the ultimate goal is to get the kids out of the house.

Ada Calhoun is the author of the recently released, Instinctive Parenting: Trusting Ourselves to Raise Good Kids (2010) and a ReadThis board member.

One Comments

  1. […] Happy Mother’s Day! Posted in Uncategorized by 90swoman on May 5, 2010 In honor of Mother’s Day, I just did a post on of the top five novels about motherhood. […]

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