Book Riot’s take on the best moms in literature.

Should Molly Weasely write a parenting book? She is hardly the perfect mother to her biological children – yelling at them very often and embarrassing them in public. She is far too intense to be likeable, like Mrs. Bennett, Bessie Glass and some of the Tiger mothers in Amy Tan’s novels. Among the other literary mamas mentioned here and elsewhere, Mrs. March is too cloying. Mrs. Murry from A Wrinkle in Time is too perfect. Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor from A Suitable Boy is too much of a doormat to her family, while Mrs. Rupa Mehra from the same book is one interfering bossy woman whom one would hardly care to meet in real life.

It is easier to list the worst moms in literature – Brenda Last, Irene Pollock, Charlotte Haze…

Some of my favourites – Jack’s mother from Room by Emma Donoghue, Em from Em and The Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto and the delightful Bernadette Fox from Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. One of the best mother characters in fiction is Taylor Greer in The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven, a feisty woman who is an affectionate and caring mother to her adopted daughter Turtle.

This quote below from The Bean Trees shows how Taylor turned out to be a good mother. It is thanks to her own mother Alice, a single woman from a working class background who raised her daughter to become a smart young woman brimming with confidence and self respect.

“There were two things about Mama. One is she always expected the best out of me. And the other is that then no matter what I did, whatever I came home with, she acted like it was the moon I had just hung up in the sky and plugged in all the stars. Like I was that good.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees

Which sounds similar to the maternal Aibileen reassuring the child Mae Mobley,
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
~ Kathryn Stockett, The Help

Literature (and the real world) could do with more Moms like Alice and Aibileen.