The Lost Mother
Mary McGarry Morris (Adult Fiction)
It’s the Great Depression, and everything that Henry Talcott owns or is most precious to him is contained in a single tent—his knives, saws, and cleavers as well as his two young children, Thomas (12) and Margaret (8). Henry slaughters animals for a living, but work is scarce and money is getting harder to come by. His wife, Irene, abandoned the family years earlier and now Henry finds himself having to leave his children alone more often as he travels to find work. When his wealthy neighbor, Phyllis Farley, begins to lure his children to her home as a means of providing companionship for her wheelchair-bound son, Henry’s firm hold on his family slowly begins to loosen.
The Lost Mother is an aching, somber, and dark novel about a father’s desperate attempt to keep his family together while two young siblings grapple with their own feelings of loyalty, love, and loathing toward one another. Morris’s book overflows with passion and her multi-dimensional characters evoke myriad emotions from her readers: pity for a single father doing his best under the most hopeless of circumstances; disdain for the crooked shopkeeper who swindles an honest boy; sympathy for a little sister enduring endless verbal and emotional assaults from her brother; contempt for a wealthy neighbor and her disingenuous benevolence; and disgust for a beautiful mother who callously abandons her children for a better life. Morris is able to successfully rein in all of our feelings while maintaining the story’s momentum by centering every action around a recurring theme of home, family, and togetherness.
In the song “You Always Hurt the One You Love”, there are lyrics that accurately describe several characters in this book: You always hurt the one you love/ The one you shouldn’t hurt at all/ You always take the sweetest rose/ And crush it till the petals fall. These characters love so deeply and wholly that they simply cannot recognize the negative impact that their behavior is having on those closest to them. But despite these flawed characters, Morris gives us a ray of hope through Henry and his children. Together, the three of them manage to rise above their circumstances and prove that they are much more than society has labeled them. Henry, Thomas, and Margaret Talcott remind us that worth and security are not something that you hold in a wallet. Instead, the greatest treasure is sometimes found in a pair of arms that are opened and are waiting for you…just for you.
*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com