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From Left to Write: Mother Mother

September 17, 2013

As part of my 25 by 25 list I made it a goal to join a book club this year. Since my friends are not posh enough and I am pretty stretched for time as it is, I thought the best way to achieve this goal would be to join an online book club. From Left to Write is exactly that. Readers sign up for 1 of 2 monthly books and on book club day each reader shares a post relating the book they read to their own experiences. We are not reviewing the books but rather talking about how it relates to our own lives.

 
The book I chose this month was Mother Mother by Koren Zailckas. I was thrilled when this was an option as I read her previous book, Smashed a few years back and loved it. It was particularly thought-provoking since the book talks about the downward spiral of binge drinking and addiction in college. I read it the summer before I left for college so I was sufficiently terrified to engage in any sort of binge-drinking activities, which may or may not have been a good thing. 
Back to today’s book. Mother Mother tells the story of the Hursts, an upper-middle class family living in upstate NY who on the outside appear perfect, but as we quickly discover reality is more than meets the eye. Like Smashed, Mother Mother is a psychological thriller which explores the negative effects of abuse and mental health disorders. The story centralizes around Josephine, the mother, but is told from the perspective of two of her kids, Violet and William. To thicken the plot, the third Hurst child, Rose has run away and we are left to wonder why she left and if Josephine is to blame. 
 
In particular I took a liking to Violet’s character. We meet Violet just as she’s entered an adolescent psychiatric unit, a result from her supposed psychotic episode. Thankfully I have never experienced a psychiatric breakdown nor do I have a psychotic mother so my interest in Violet does not stem from personal experience, but on some level I felt I could identify with her character.
 
As a psychology major I have always been fascinated by the world of human behaviour. In particular, what leads us to behave in different ways, make certain life decisions and why some of us develop mental health problems while others lead perfectly happy and normal lives. As much as I enjoyed learning about these things in the classroom I often felt disconnected from the various disorders I was studying and how individuals with these diagnoses were actually coping in the real world. 
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As a result, I spent my after-school hours and summers immersing myself in the world of psych working as a counselor at a camp for kids with Autism, a “buddy” to an adult living with schizophrenia and a volunteer in the adolescent mental health ward at a hospital. The last experience was the one that stuck with me the most. As a 20 year old I was the same age as most of the inpatients and yet they were facing such obstacles while I was able to go home at night. The differences in our situations put so much into perspective for me and took the abstract knowledge I was absorbing in school and made it real.

I developed bonds with many of them and some felt comfortable opening up to me about their problems. I interacted with adolescents with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, dissociative disorder, and quite commonly (as was the case with Violet), drug induced psychosis. What I noticed was that the adolescents who successfully completed the program were to ones who had supportive and actively involved families. 

 
Violet on the other hand seldom receives visits from her family-her dad comes sporadically and her Mom does not come by at all. As she spends more time on the ward she begins to unravel the deeply-seeded lies her Mom has planted. At the same time she uncovers who her true support system is, her loyal friends from home and the new friendships she’s developed on the unit. The more she sees what true love is the less she believes her mother possesses it. These realizations were incredibly reminiscent of the time I spent working with the adolescents from the ward I worked on. 
The book made me grateful for the supportive family that I have, where I know if things start down a slippery slope they will be there to catch me. I am aware that not everyone is as fortunate as I am and can only hope for people like Violet and the adolescents I worked with that they will be able to find that same comfort elsewhere. It is a reminder to us all to cherish the support we have and be that support to others if they need it.
 
A controlling mother, a missing daughter, and a family who is desperate for love. This post was inspired by the the psychological thriller Mother, Mother by Zoren Zailckas. Join From Left to Write on September 19 as we discuss Mother, Mother.  

*As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

 
Who is your support system? Are you or have you ever been a support system for someone close to you? Are you in a book club?

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  • Reply
    Arman @ thebigmansworld
    September 17, 2013 at 10:13 am

    wow, Davida thats so great that you did all that work with those affected with autism- that is truly inspiring! I can’t remember the last time I read a book for leisure…. 6 more weeks argh!

  • Reply
    Amanda @ .running with spoons.
    September 17, 2013 at 10:52 am

    I’ve done a lot of work with the same population as you, and it definitely puts things into perspective and shows you the importance of having a stable and loving support system to turn to. Mine would definitely be my family… namely, Mom and Dad. I honestly don’t think I would have been able to get through some of my bigger struggles if I didn’t know that they’d be there for me every step of the way. I’m so thankful to have them…

    • Reply
      Davida @TheHealthyMaven
      September 18, 2013 at 1:18 am

      I don’t do it because it remind me of how lucky I am but it does put a lot of things into perspective when you work with people who aren’t as lucky as you are. Terrible as it may sound…

  • Reply
    softserveandsquats.com
    September 17, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Wow! With all your amazing experiences working in psych it sounds like you’re perfect person to review this book! I’m definitely so lucky to have my family as a support system.

  • Reply
    mrsmurphyslawoffitness.com
    September 17, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Great review! It definitely takes a special person to have done what you did and it speaks volumes about your character. You could have had a life changing impact on some of those teenagers, so bravo. 🙂

  • Reply
    gottaeatgreen.com
    September 17, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Sounds like a really interesting read! Joining a book club is on my (very) long list of things to do if I had more free time. My family, friends, and Grant are my support system. If anything were to go wrong I know I can go to any of them.

    • Reply
      Davida @TheHealthyMaven
      September 18, 2013 at 1:19 am

      You should join from left to write! Or better yet let’s start a toronto book club 🙂

  • Reply
    kellyrunsforfood.com
    September 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Ooh that book sounds good! I just started reading a new book. I love those psychological thrillers too!

  • Reply
    Erin @ The Almond Eater
    September 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    That sounds like a really great read! I think it’s books like Mother Mother that make you realizes that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a supportive family and how lucky you are if you do–and I don’t just mean you I mean everyone. Very nice review.

  • Reply
    Madison
    September 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I don’t have a book club right now but that’s on my bucket list. I think it would be so much fun to be surrounded by fellow literary lovers (and drink wine hehe).

  • Reply
    Amy @ Elephant Eats
    September 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Sounds like a great book. I really need to join a book club!

  • Reply
    Amy @ Long Drive Journey
    September 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I loved this review! You’re a really good writer, girl! I agree that it’s amazing that you’ve done the kind of work that you have. I’m sure that it was really meaningful to all of the people that you worked with. I love the idea of an online book club. I want to do one in real life too!

    • Reply
      Davida @TheHealthyMaven
      September 18, 2013 at 1:21 am

      Thanks girl! I know you get this post more than anyone. Totally open to starting another book club for us too!

  • Reply
    Alisha @ Alishas Appetite
    September 17, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    I love that you joined an online book club! I’ve always wanted to join one in my community, but as a new-ish person in the neighborhood it’s hard to find. The online way is a cool option.

  • Reply
    Charlotte @ Commitness to Fitness
    September 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    oh wow, you are such a rock star for all your volunteering! that is so awesome! also awesome you joined an online book club. this book sounds so interesting!!

  • Reply
    FitBritt@MyOwnBalance
    September 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Your book club sounds so interesting! I might check it out and see if it’s a good fit for me. Great review of the book. You make it sound like a page turner!

  • Reply
    Kim
    September 17, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Love your book review and the way that you made it relatable and showed some of the facts.
    I love to read and have thought about joining a book club but now is probably not the best time (although the online group sounds pretty doable).
    My support system is definitely my husband, boys and sister-in-law!!!

  • Reply
    Jessica @ FromtheKitchentotheRoad
    September 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    I love book clubs. I was in a book club when I lived in LA that I really enjoyed. This is a very cool post and review. I haven’t found any book clubs around here that work with my schedule but maybe the online thing would be a good route for me as well.

  • Reply
    Danielle @Labelsarefortincans
    September 17, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    What a cool sounding book club! How did you end up getting involved with that? Thanks for sharing your experiences! I worked for one summer with the City of Toronto one-on-one with kids with disabilities (in a day camp setting). It was such a great experience – and incredibly hard work! I can only imagine the experiences you must have had.

    • Reply
      Davida @TheHealthyMaven
      September 18, 2013 at 1:23 am

      Ah no way!!! I worked at Geneva Centre but we did a lot of stuff through the City of Toronto programs. They’re the kind of experiences that change you forever.

  • Reply
    Consuelo @ Honey & Figs
    September 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    That’s a nice work you did, it must have been quite an interesting experience!
    And joining a book club sounds so fun. I wish I had the time to join one as well! That book sounds amazing! 😉

  • Reply
    Sam @ Better With Sprinkles
    September 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Now I’m wishing I had signed up for this book! I knew September was going to be busy so i didn’t sign up for any – hopefully next month’s sound as good as this one did. When i was working as a counselor, I was working in a group home for pregnant teenagers. You can definitely see the effect of a good support system. There were girls in there who never had family visitors and would tell me about their issues with their parents…they were the ones who were on their 2nd or 3rd babies at 16 and had drug or alcohol dependence issues. One girl stands out in my mind, because she was the opposite – her parents and the father of her baby visited her regularly (although they were no longer together) and she was the one who was a fantastic caretaker and really bonded with her son, was holding down a job right up until she hit 39 or 40 weeks, got her GED…just goes to show you that a support system is vital. Mine is definitely my parents, my boyfriend, my friends (both online and in real life)…and i think i’ll throw the pug in there too 😉

    • Reply
      Davida @TheHealthyMaven
      September 18, 2013 at 1:27 am

      Wow what an incredible experience Sam. I’d love to hear more about it. It’s amazing what we can overcome and face when we have a good support network. And it’s such a shame what happens when we don’t. You should feel awesome for being that kind of support to those teenagers. I’m sure you had more of an impact than you could have imagined!

  • Reply
    Ang @ Nutty for Life
    September 17, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    I’ve actually read Smashed, too. I thought it was way better than I expected it to be. Things dealing with mental illness always intrigue me because I’ve dealt with a family member who has schizophrenia. I’ve actually always wondered if the disorder would surface in me due to genetic traits and patterns I’ve heard about it. Anyway, tangent over. Thanks for sharing the book, Davida!

  • Reply
    Tara
    September 17, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I haven’t read that book but I am intrigued now. Yes to book clubs! I’m actually in the process of organizing one with my friends and I am SO. EXCITED. What is better than drinking wine, discussing literature and gossiping with your favorite people? There is none!

    • Reply
      Davida @TheHealthyMaven
      September 18, 2013 at 1:24 am

      the only thing missing from my online book club is the wine…hasn’t stopped me from drinking wine on my own though!

  • Reply
    Ja @Ja on the RUN
    September 17, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Definitely inspiring! Love this!

  • Reply
    Megan (The Lyons Share)
    September 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    You are amazing. My sister has worked at a camp for kids with autism, so I know what a challenging experience it can be. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Davida @TheHealthyMaven
      September 18, 2013 at 1:24 am

      Definitely a challenge but one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I’ve never laughed and cried so hard in 8 weeks!

  • Reply
    Audrey @ In Shape Cupcake
    September 17, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    Inspiring post! Haven’t read that book, but looks interesting! I wish I wish I was part of a book club, one that had people my age especially.

    My support system is my fit friends over the web/social media, my dad (who is always pushing me to run my best, I thank him for that), and my family for their excitement over my blog and all. Its really awesome!
    I don’t have ANY REAL friends that are into fitness and health like me, and absolutely refuse to, so that’s where I get a little disappointed. Its hard to get a friend to go on a run with me or go eat at a cool healthy restaurant because they would rather eat chicken wings and fries, etc…But, thankfully, my parents are like me and love healthy! HA!

    • Reply
      Davida @TheHealthyMaven
      September 18, 2013 at 1:25 am

      That’s awesome audrey!!! I find almost all my healthy lifestyle support from my fellow bloggers and people like YOU! My family hasn’t quite jumped on the bandwagon yet…

  • Reply
    Angie @ A Mother's Pace
    September 18, 2013 at 2:40 am

    I’m in a book club and we meet monthly. It’s been a struggle to finish the book lately but somehow I get it done! I’ve never heard of From Left to Write before…it’s a great way to find out about good books to read!

  • Reply
    Nikki@willrunforpizza
    September 18, 2013 at 3:25 am

    I had started working on my Master’s in Counseling because I love learning how our minds work too! Then I realized it was going to take me 6 years to finish and I don’t have time for all that! (I have a BS, so it’s not like I was just quitting…) Psychology really interests me though…Sounds like an interesting book!
    I have a good support systems in my family – my husband, mom, and sister the most because they live the closest, but my grandparents and aunts are extremely supportive too! The friends I do have are supportive – even though a lot of them aren’t as “hippy” as I am, they are at least supportive!

    • Reply
      Davida @TheHealthyMaven
      September 18, 2013 at 7:43 pm

      So fun to learn more about you Nikki! I work in psych and a lot of my friends (or “colleagues” but they’re technically students) are MA and phD students. It’s a long road though so I don’t blame you for not seeing it through. At a point now where I need to decide if that’s the route for me. I love all of the experiences I’ve had and I definitely have an interest in psych but I’m not so sure if it’s the career path for me.

  • Reply
    Jillienne @ ChasingRaspberries
    September 18, 2013 at 3:49 am

    I must read this book! Great book review Davida!I love how you related real life experiences with the book. I used to babysit my neighbor with down syndrome. I loved that kid, actually he was older than me, but it was challenging. He was obsessed with football, which meant he randomly would tackle me! So many bruises!

    • Reply
      Davida @TheHealthyMaven
      September 18, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      Thanks Jillienne! Oh man after my summer at that camp I had so many scapes and bruises…and missing a chunk of my hair…long story!

  • Reply
    Paige Podbelsek
    September 18, 2013 at 4:18 am

    This sounds fantastic!! I loved Smashed…actually funnily enough I just reread it for like the 8th time last week and it’s sitting right next to me now! Definitely will have to check this one out.

  • Reply
    Melissa
    September 18, 2013 at 4:48 am

    I’ve been wanting to join a book club, but my friends are too far away. I like the idea of an online club. I’ll have to look into it! I’m also in need of a new book, so I’ll definitely check out this one and Smashed.

  • Reply
    Sarah Pie
    September 18, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    It sounds like the book brought out a memories and connections to a lot of great experiences for you. I’m working in a school for students on the autism spectrum right now, and want to be in this kind of setting full time once I earn my license. Like you said the work really puts life into perspective for you and helps you to remember all the blessings you do have.

  • Reply
    theseedsof3
    September 18, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly about needing a good support system. If it’s not there, then the person needs an internal strength that can bridge the gap until they can find one. I am lucky enough to have had enough internal strength to get me to a self made support group of a loving husband, my grown sisters, and wonderful friends. My adolescence was too close to Rose’s to write about the book directly, which is why I chose pancakes 🙂

  • Reply
    veganmiam.com
    September 19, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Congrats signing up for an online book club, and sounds like an interesting club. I don’t like reviewing books, but it’s nice that you get to talk/write about how books relate to your own lives. Psychological thrillers, especially crime thrillers are my favorite genre. I never knew you majored in psychology, but that’s a cool fact!

  • Reply
    Cupcake Kelly
    September 19, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Great post, I think that even though some people don’t have supportive families, having a supportive someone (like you) can be very helpful. I can relate to Violet more than I’d like to admit, but I had other people in my life that were encouraging and supportive, and that definitely got me to where I am today!

  • Reply
    Thien-Kim aka Kim
    September 20, 2013 at 2:08 am

    I’m so glad you were there for those adolescents. I didn’t always feel supported by my family growing up, but I’m thankful it wasn’t like Mother, Mother.

  • Reply
    Lisa Hanneman
    September 20, 2013 at 3:53 am

    I’m thankful for my health every day, especially my mental health. I was a psych major for a short while in college – ended up with a minor – but it wasn’t right for me. So, I stuck with English, but books like this are a good in-between.

    Welcome to From Left to Write!

  • Reply
    Run like a G!
    September 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    What a cool book club idea!!!

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