Favorite Moms From Books
In thinking about my favorite mothers presented in books I’ve read, I realized that many of my beloved books have no mother in them at all — Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, Great Expectations by Dickens — or a very sad, downtrodden mother — Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy — or a not-so-admirable mother — The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery or Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen or Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson — or a out-of-the picture mother, as in Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar.
But to honor those books with mothers who are memorable, admirable, interesting, and inspirational — much like my own mother is to me — I have come up with a list (not exhaustive by any means but a good place to start) of mothers I’ve loved in books.
Geraldine in Goodbye Without Leaving by Laurie Colwin. She’s far from perfect but she knows what’s important: hanging out with and loving her little Franklin.
Nnu Ego in The Joys of Motherhood, a mother burdened by poverty, a difficult marriage (including the fact she has to share her husband with other wives), and a world changing and spinning out of her control and understanding, she remains true to what she sees as her most important role: to protect her children.
Robert’s mom Trudy in The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass about whom Robert writes his college admission essay, making me love both her and him in one lovely essay of a son’s admiration for his mother.
Emily in Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan, now a grandmother, and while committed to her children and grandchildren no matter what, she understands that her own private and separate place is important and fulfilling.
Tamsen Donner( see photo above) in Impatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton, the brave mother who delights in her children and the world around her as she and her family pass through on their infamous journey west. When things don’t work out as planned, Tamsen becomes heroic, keeping her family and fellow travelers alive and sane through a regimen of hygiene, chores, and meals (not as gruesome as you might imagine).
Ora in To the End of the Land by David Grossman. Ora takes on the task of saving her soldier son from death, undertaking an epic hike to stave off the knock at her kitchen door that will notify her of his death and discovering truths about her life, her family, and her country.