As Mother's Day approaches I've been thinking a lot about the role mothers play in books. They can be saviours and protectors. They can be demanding. They can be forgiving. Sometimes we may wish these women were moms we knew in real life. Maybe they'd be our friends or mentors. They could laugh about our children's exploits... or our own. They are women that understand our fears but they also understand our strengths. Join us in raising a toast to these ten strong literary mothers.
Image: Pink rose in book pages via Shutterstock
I hate to alarm you but do you know it's been 25 years since Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club was published? And 20 years since the film version hit movie theatres? It's shocking, I know. What is less shocking is how well the novel and the four mother-daugther relationships it contains still resonate. Vasilly read the book for the first time just a few years ago and this is what she had to say.
"I can remember countless times as a teenager when I felt like my mother and I were speaking two different languages. Now as a mother, I wonder how much of what I say to my daughter will be remembered and in what way. I think that’s part of timelessness of this book. Mother-daughter issues are going to be around as long as human beings are here."
Not all of the mothers we visit in books exist only in their pages. Evelyn Ryan, the subject of Terry Ryan's book, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less, was very much a real person. I think of her often and feel that if she were raising her children today, she'd be writing one heck of a blog. Part of the reason Mrs. Ryan was able to win so many contests was because she loved writing. As Renee-Ann so rightly pointed out in her review, so much of this book was about the writing:
"Throughout the book, I asked myself how or where did she find the time to write while raising ten children, cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc. Terry describes how her mother stood at the ironing board, with a pen behind her ear, and iron in her hand. When an idea came to her, she jotted it down, and continued her task. She left her famous notebooks as a legacy to her children. Whether while cooking, ironing or just watching TV -- a set she’d won -- her notebook never left her side."
Blogher's Blogging and Social Media editor Melissa Ford was quick to recommend Mrs. Dorothy Quimby as one of her favourite literary mothers. You might know her better as Ramona's mother. Melissa said she thinks of Mrs. Quimby as a strong, loving mother and I have to agree. It's also interesting to be able to look at her from a different perspective now that we are adults. When she read Ramona and Her Mother as a mother herself, Christy at Being More Than Mommy jotted down a few parenting lessons.
"Children need mom time. Ramona was so excited one Saturday morning, to learn there were no errands to be done. She could sit with her mother and they could sew together. The way the book described Ramona when she was sitting next to her mom was amazing. You could feel just how happy Ramona was, just to be sitting next to her mom. Just because they were doing something together."
Molly Weasley in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series might just be my favorite of all literary mothers. Oh Molly, how you were undervalued for much of the series. Teenagers can do that to their mothers, can't they? So often in the series we only see Molly through the children's eyes as an overprotective worrier. Her children -- including those she actively mothers but who are not her children -- fail to see that Molly is so much more.
She is a woman who stands against evil. She actively resists. She puts her personal safety and the safety of all her loved ones at risk. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix we see the weight and fear she carries because of this. It was a moment where the fear won but in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows we get to see Molly's true strength in a very motherly way. In the final moments of the Battle of Hogwarts, she faces a fearsome foe and with one sentence changes everyone's views of her as meek. Molly Weasley is strong and she roars. I can't say it any better than this essay at PFS Publishing's The Book Club.
"Molly's purpose in Rowling's story is a relatively deceptive one. The thematic climax here, for the story of a boy without parents who must save the world, then is one of Harry Potter witnessing the most noble act of sacrifice - Molly, when facing Bellatrix alone, a woman who was beating three witches with more battle experience than her, was possibly facing her own death. Molly was a willing sacrifice to protect the life of her child - just as Harry's own mother gave her life to save his."
Image: Julie Walters as Molly Weasley in Warner Bros. Pictures' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 - 2011
It's hard to imagine this list not containing a toast to Ma Ingalls. She was the glue that held the Ingalls family together and she is our idea of the quintessential pioneer mother. She cooked, clean, fed and cared for all her children and did it all without the modern appliances we take for granted. It's no wonder that just like Meagan Francis, we find ourselves wondering how she'd deal with a situation.
"Even so, I find it inspiring to focus on the good qualities that I’m drawn to in those characters, and to figure out a way to incorporate them into my real “right now” life. More than one time in my life I’ve asked myself “What would Ma Ingalls do?"
I am well aware that Catelyn Stark is a divisive figure in the A Song of Fire and Ice fandom. She's lost her husband, thought she's lost some of her children and many other things we can't even begin to contemplate in the series. Catelyn loves her children, but can't find any love to spare for her husband's illegitimate child. The Game of Thrones has not always been kind to her and she's not always kind in return. Her life is not easy but she continues to fight for her family and I can't help but respect that. Delphine at Geek Mom is down with Mother Stark as well.
"She’s the loving and realistic mother of five very different children, and manages to be in the same time a wife, a lady with a political mind and sometimes a warleader."
Image: MICHELLE FAIRLEY as Catelyn Stark © HBO/Entertainment Pictures/ZUMAPRESS.com
If you've read Emma Donoghue's Room you know it is told through Jack, a five-year-old whose entire world consists of just one room -- the room where he and his mother are being held captive. For Ma, it's been seven long years of captivity. Ma's love for Jack and her ability to parent and her strength is a testament to the power of motherhood. The bond between a mother and her child shines in this novel and it was one of the things that Melody praised about Room.
"Despite Ma’s frustrations at the limitations to raising Jack -- the constant need to ration clothes and food, make sure he gets enough exercise in the tiny space, and stay sane in the face of the child’s unending energy and curiosity -- the love that she and Jack share shows the incomparable connection between parent and child, and attests to the power of such a bond to make even the worst situation bearable."
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