Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth – A Review

Publisher: Atlantic Books

Publication Date: October 6th 2022

I was initially drawn to this book by the amazing cover and the bonkers tagline. But when I read the blurb I got the book tingles for sure! And my bookish spidey-senses were not wrong with this one!

When it arrived in May I knew it wasn’t due to be published until October but I took a peek at the first page and was immediately hooked. In a few short paragraphs I smiled wryly to myself at the dark and dry humour. That was enough for me to think oh blow it I’ll read it now! And read it I did, in 24 hours.

Abby has grown up with no father and a selfish mother who has more regard for the many many men who are in and out of her life. Abby pays the price of being second best in her mother’s eyes.

As an adult Abby meets Ralph, her knight in shining armour who comes as a package with his mother, Laura. Abby sees Laura as her second chance to have a loving caring mother figure in her life but is disappointed when Laura turns out to be over protective of Ralph and dismissive of Abby, making passive aggressive comments to Abby under Ralph’s radar.

The book opens at the point that Laura, having suffered from depression for years, takes her own life in the basement of her house, a house that Abby and Ralph had recently moved into to help Laura out.

After the passing of his mother, Ralph descends into a deep depression and tells Abby that his mother is back and living in the basement. Abby is desperate to keep a hold of her husband and drag him back into their lives in the here and now. A life of their own without the constraints of caring for Laura and the possibility of having a much wanted child of their own.

As Ralph falls apart so to by degrees does Abby and she ultimately makes terrible decisions in her quest for a happy family life.

I knew going in that this book was going to be bonkers. And it was, don’t get me wrong! However, it was much deeper and layered than I expected. The story is told from the first person perspective of Abby so we as readers are inside her head at all times. She has a dark sense of humour that we witness not only through her internal monologue but her interactions with Ralph and the women she works with. I really loved the little in-jokes she has with Ralph and their lovely genuine relationship.

Throughout the whole book there is of course the theme of motherhood. We have Abby’s own terrible neglected childhood with a mother who didn’t see her as a priority in her life and who put men before her. We then have Laura’s relationship with Ralph and the fact that she will not consider any woman to be good enough for him. We also have Abby’s desperation for a family of her own, so much so that she actually converses with her unborn child ‘Cal’ even though she isn’t even pregnant. We also then gave a separate thread of story relating to Abby’s employment at an old peoples residential care home. There’s a woman in there, Mrs Blundy, who Abby attaches herself to and calls her her ‘baby’ again another last desperate grab for a caring mother in her life. When this relationship is threatened it converges with her issues at home and that is when Abby’s decisions become unhinged.

Motherthing is a modern horror but wasn’t as horrific as I was expecting. There are some difficult parts to stomach (I’ll just say chicken a la king and leave it at that!) And it I bloody loved it!

It’s so funny and dark and odd but utterly gripping and propulsive. I love Ainslie Hogarths writing style and I know this book has been compared in some reviews to Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder and I can very much see why. There are also glints of C J Skuse in there if you’ve ever read the Sweet Pea series of books (but not as murderous!).

It’s a quirky book, it’s deliciously dark and it’s going right on my books of the year list!

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Thank you to Kirsty Doole and Atlantic Books for my review copy.