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Books For and About Mom 


Article by Mary Ellin Arch

Photography by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

Below are three of my favorite books featuring incredible moms. You’ve probably read these books or seen the movie versions, but this month, as we focus on all things “Mom,” it's a good time to re-read or re-watch, paying special attention to the moms in the story. Chances are, the first time you read or watched, you were caught up in the action and the plot line; but for this second time, pay attention to the moms. I bet you’ll come away with a new appreciation for both the stories and the characters of the mothers.

Little Women, by Louisa Alcott

Mention this book, and everyone has a favorite character, whether it’s womanly Meg, rakish Jo, shy Beth, artistic Amy, or even passionate Laurie. But don’t give short shrift to Marmee. She’s the backstage star of the show as she shepherds her four little girls into fierce, independent, creative women – no small feat during those bleak Civil War years when women were still considered the property of men and could not even vote. If you read this book during your childhood, identifying with one of the four March sisters, give it a re-read now, focusing on Marmee and her enlightened ideas, her innovative (for the time) approach to life, and her quiet-yet-forceful guiding hand upon her daughters. Also recommended: the 1994 movie version with Susan Sarandon as Marmee.

Room, by Emma Donoghue

By now most people have either read this book or seen the movie starring Brie Larson as Ma to 5-year-old Jack. So I can’t imagine I’m spoiling anything by noting that yes, they get out of Room, the prison in which they’ve been kept hostage for more than six years (all of Jack’s young life, Ma’s entire pregnancy, and then some). Make no mistake: The book is not about the room. It’s about the escape from Room, and the aftermath. On your re-read (or re-watching), pay attention to Ma – her courage, her creativity, and her triumph. You’ve no doubt heard someone compare a mother’s love to that of a female bear protecting her cubs – that’s Ma, and the portrait of this mother and her intense maternal instinct is at the heart of this gut-wrenching story.

My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout

Lucy Barton is in the hospital, recovering from an operation that has sent her down a rabbit hole in search of recovery. Her estranged mother comes to visit and stays for days, forcing Lucy to confront her painful history with her mom and the tentacles of disappointment and longing that have tangled her adulthood, especially her marriage and her relationships with her daughters. A lovely character study, skillfully and tenderly written by the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge, this book provokes deep questions about family ties and how, inevitably, they bind. And, it’s a short and easy read to boot – you can fit it in over Mother’s Day weekend.