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FANGirl Book Reviews: “MOTHERTHING” Is Weird In All The Best Ways

Saturday, September 10, 2022 | FANGirl Book Reviews


Man, Ainslie Hogarth’s MOTHERTHING is weird – and I love it.

After the death of her mother-in-law, Laura, Abby Lamb lives with her husband, Ralph, in his late mother’s former home – a dark, gloomy, grimy residence haunted not only by the dead woman’s memory but also by Abby’s guilt (and Ralph’s ongoing trauma). Abby, a caregiver at a long-term care facility, has stolen an opal ring off of her deceased mother-in-law’s finger, and it has not gone unnoticed by Ralph – or by Laura’s ghost.

What begins as a grief-stricken guilt journey quietly morphs into a dark unraveling of the female psyche as we begin to understand that Laura – dead or alive – is only one facet in the gemstone of Abby’s turmoil. Her traumatic childhood, her difficult relationship with her mother-in-law, her inability to conceive (and how this puts her at odds with her colleagues), and even her over-attached relationship with a patient at the care facility all provide glimpses into Abby’s deeply deteriorated mental state.

Author Ainslie Hogarth

To be sure, there are warning signs of Abby’s mental state – and harbingers of an inevitably unhappy ending – but what makes MOTHERTHING so compelling is that there’s no one moment when we realize, yep, shit is about to hit the fan. So well-oiled is Hogarth’s pen that it’s easy to get swept away in the chaos in Abby’s brain: her manic responses, her imbalanced and intermixed violence and compassion. Abby is a stand-in for so many women, especially those with unhealthy mothers or unhealthy relationships with their partners and friends and bodies. We know she’s no hero, and yet, she’s all of us, and we root for her despite the horrible things she does. After all, when has any of us not been desperate enough to do something terrible for the ones we love?

Campy, bizarre, and female, MOTHERTHING is too relatable to be entirely comfortable, and that’s what makes it such delicious reading.

Ainslie Hogarth’s MOTHERTHING, published by Vintage Books, will be released on September 27.

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