Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.
Great horror/thrilled by Stage. I loved the set-up of this, several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, a woman’s life (Grace) seems to be coming apart, and things go from bad to worse when her mother (Jackie) moves in. Only reason why I didn’t give this 5 stars was that the flow of the book. I think when the dreams started coming hard and fast you weren’t given enough time to figure out what that real or what is happening now. I am still wondering if conversations Grace had were real or not real.
“Mothered” follows hair stylist Grace who is struggling to make ends meet a couple of months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Grace feels adrift because she’s lost her job, her great boss, and she is scared she may end up losing her home. Her one source of comfort outside of her best friend Miguel, is her online personas which she says are used to help other people. When Grace’s mother Jackie calls, she asks can she move in. After Jackie’s husband has died, his children want what is left and Jackie really can’t live alone anymore. Though Grace is hesitant, she realizes her mother will be able to help her with the bills. What starts off as an uneasy roommate situation starts to get darker and darker once Grace and Jackie are forced to isolate more and more due to COVID-19.
Grace was a complicated character. You feel sorry for her throughout, but want to tell her to get her shit together. I think it’s because she does some really crappy things in the book, but you realize how affected she has due to her in essence being forced to care take her twin sister Hope who had cerebral palsy. The book flits back and forth between Grace’s dreams, the present, and her memories (maybe?) of her past with her sister and how much she wanted her mother to just love her. There’s resentment because she needs her mother to help her at this time in her life, but also anger because her mother keeps pressing her about her sister.
Jackie is complicated as well. I want to know who is the real her. Sometimes we get glimpses of a woman who is broken by where her life led her. You can see someone who was in love with Grace and Hope’s father who is broken by the fact that he moved on and left her to live in her dead parent’s home. Now she’s been pushed out of her life by her dead spouse’s family. Her daughter is all she has. So at times you can see her trying to be close, but also resentful of needing Grace.
Hope is not really a solid figure in the book. She appears either via flashbacks or dreams. She seems to be a malevolent person, but one wonders though was she? Or was this just Grace’s perception?
The writing I thought was great. An ever increasing feeling of dread starts at the beginning of the book and doesn’t let up. Weirdly enough I don’t even recall the first couple of weeks of the pandemic and being scared. I was way luckier than other Americans. I was able to work from home right away and was able to get things delivered. My one brother found tons of cleaning products and kept sending me things. I was able to work out from home or go on walks (masked). I think things hit me worse when the election got in full swing. I started to get scared that former President Trump was going to win again and what that meant. I definitely felt like his Administration was winging things and we had so many loud (but small) anti vaxxers and anti-maskers screaming about their rights and it just felt like things were never going to get better. But Stage plays with how time and how many days/weeks started to blend for each other once they were quarantining and the fear many had when they lost their jobs.
The only reason why I gave this one 4 stars was just because the flow stumbles after a while. I think also trying to work out what was real and what was a dream sometimes had me come to a hard stop in my reading. Not often, but enough I noticed it.
The book takes place in Pittsburgh which I definitely enjoyed seeing in book form. Of course you don’t really get a sense of the city, outside of people and their particular quirks, because the world seems to be closed away due the pandemic and waves that are now hitting the United States.
I enjoyed the ending though it wasn’t a shocker.