The new NBC miniseries for Rosemary’s Baby is premiering this weekend, just in time for Mother’s Day. Yes, it’s true, Mother’s Day is fast approaching! Motherhood can be tough and scary in so many ways, and mothers and mother-in-laws can be tough and scary, too, and that manifests itself in so many ways that I can’t even begin to list them. What I can do is give you a list of books in which mothers and their influences have played a significant part. Maybe you can relate (I hope not, but you never know) and maybe these will put things into perspective as everyone gears up for Mother’s Day.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin.
This classic work by Ira Levin tells the story of Rosemary Woodhouse. Rosemary and her husband, Guy, move into a very nice apartment that is suspiciously inexpensive, in a building with an extremely disturbing history of witchcraft, cannibalism, and murder. Apparently the nosy elderly neighbors are covertly continuing that tradition, and have convinced Guy to take part as well. When Rosemary becomes pregnant, the residents of the building attempt to isolate her and take control of her pregnancy.
In spite of all the rosy depictions of pregnancy, it is a difficult experience emotionally and physically. and can be terrifying even when you have a fantastic support system, and sometimes it involves real tragedy. Rosemary’s Baby makes that frighteningly vivid. Roman Polanski’s movie is considered to be a faithful adaptation, and a classic work of horror as well.
Carrie by Stephen King
The cruelty of the girls at school to Carrie is what I find most memorable about the book, but this story could not have existed in the same way without her mentally ill mother, Margaret White, whose violent, controlling, and isolating behavior is the source of many of Carrie’s problems. Even at the end of the story she calls out for her mother. While not Stephen King’s best writing, Carrie has clearly hit a mark with its tone and message. It was made into a movie of the same name, starring Sissy Spacek, in 1976, and again in 2013, with Julianne Moore stealing the show in the role of Margaret White.
Note: Carrie also inspired a sequel (The Rage: Carrie 2), was made into a musical (1988), and was made into a made-for-television movie for NBC (2002).
Psycho: A Novel
Who doesn’t know of Norman Bates and the Bates Motel? In spite of her unpleasantness and controlling behavior, Norman Bates loves his mother. Spoiler: she’s been dead for 20 years. Almost everyone knows the movie Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock; it is worth taking a short while (it is a short book) to check out the book. Bloch’s novel may have been influenced by the story of Ed Gein, a serial killer arrested near where he lived at the time.
I have reviewed the Michael Morpurgo version of Beowulf here, and if you are wondering why a children’s book is appearing on a list of very adult books, rest assured that this adult thought it was amazing. The second book I’ve linked to is a graphic novel version by Gareth Hinds, which I discovered while surfing Amazon, and has some really great reviews. Beowulf is required reading for many middle or high school students (I think I read it in eighth grade) and it is not easy going. Morpurgo’s version is really engaging, though, and I am guessing that disengaged readers might get into it with this graphic novel version.
So why is this book on my list? If you have read Beowulf before, you know that a third of the story is devoted to the battle between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother. Sure, Grendel was a ravening monster who ripped people apart before devouring them, but a mother’s thirst for violent and deadly revenge, in this case, truly knows no bounds.
The Dollanganger Saga: Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
The collection of messed-up mothers in V.C. Andrews’ Dollanganger Saga includes Olivia Foxworth, Corinne Dollanganger, and Cathy Dollanganger, all twisted up in various degrees of love, hate, and general twisted behavior. One thing you definitely see in these books is the tremendous influence a mother can have on her children, and how that can reverberate through multiple generations. The first book, Flowers in the Attic, has been made both into a movie of the same name and into a television miniseries that aired earlier this year, but the last one, Garden of Shadows, which is technically a prequel, packs a powerful punch as well.
Room by Emma Donoghue
Not a horror novel per se, Room is still pretty horrific. The story is narrated by five year old Jack, who has never been outside the small room he inhabits with his mother. At night, Jack’s mother shuts him away to keep him from the notice of their only visitor, Old Nick. What’s actually occurring will be evident pretty quickly to the reader. Jack’s Ma shows her resourcefulness in keeping Jack entertained and occupied without revealing that something really wrong is going on, and protects him to the best of her ability. Their situation is awful, but her love for him is evident, and without the dysfunctional malevolence of some of the other mother-child relationships I’ve mentioned here.
Lakewood Memorial (Zombie Trilogy, Book 1) by Robert Best
A few years ago I did a project around Mother’s Day called Moms vs. Zombies. Just about the time that it was over, this book by Robert Best came my way. Zombies really aren’t my thing, but I was curious to find out how a mom did actually deal with zombies, and although it has more foul language than I like, and was also more gory than I like (zombies REALLY aren’t my thing) I read it cover to cover in short order. The characters are just great. In the hospital, you have Angie, a mom who works at the local hospital; one of her coworkers; a cranky old man and his relatives; and Park, who appears to know how to use a gun, and is at the hospital to bring his recently bitten friend to the ER. On the other side of a bridge, Angie’s kids and their babysitter are under siege at her home. Both Angie and her kids are determined to reach each other, and boy, are they survivors. If I have to survive a zombie apocalypse, I just might be able to manage it with Angie and her kids on my side. I am afraid that I did not review it at the time, as I can’t really give zombie novels a fair shake, but some of Best’s characters have really stuck with me, particularly Angie, her kids, and the cranky guy in the wheelchair.
If you plan to watch the miniseries, enjoy Rosemary’s Baby, and if not, I hope you’ll take a moment to think of your mother, no matter how you feel about her. I hope you have a great Mother’s Day!