Lists and Suggestions
List: Parenting in Fiction
Phillips, Helen, 1981- author.
When Molly, home alone with her two young children, hears footsteps in the living room, she tries t... More
When Molly, home alone with her two young children, hears footsteps in the living room, she tries to convince herself it's the sleep deprivation. She's been hearing things these days. Startling at loud noises. Imagining the worst-case scenario. It's what mothers do, she knows. But then the footsteps come again, and she catches a glimpse of movement. Suddenly Molly finds herself face-to-face with an intruder who knows far too much about her and her family. As she attempts to protect those she loves most, Molly must also acknowledge her own frailty. Molly slips down an existential rabbit hole where she must confront the dualities of motherhood: the ecstasy and the dread; the languor and the ferocity; the banality and the transcendence as the book hurtles toward a mind-bending conclusion. In The Need, Helen Phillips has created a subversive, speculative thriller that comes to life through blazing, arresting prose and gorgeous, haunting imagery. Helen Phillips has been anointed as one of the most exciting fiction writers working today, and The Need is a glorious celebration of the bizarre and beautiful nature of our everyday lives. Less
Audrain, Ashley, 1982- author.
A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family, about a woman ... More
A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family, about a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for--and everything she feared. Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting, supportive mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had. But in the thick of motherhood's exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter--Violet rejects her mother, screams uncontrollably, and becomes a disturbing, disruptive presence at her preschool. Or is it all in Blythe's head? Her husband, Fox, says she's imagining things. What he sees is an overwhelmed wife who can't cope with the day-to-day grind. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well. Then their son Sam is born--and with him, Blythe has the natural, blissful connection she'd always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth. Here, we see the making and breaking of a family in crystalline detail, and what it feels like when women are not believed. The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive pageturner that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about our children, and about what happens behind the doors of even the most perfect-looking families. Less
Stay and Fight
ffitch, Madeline, 1981- author.
This hilarious, truth-telling debut upends notions of family, protest, and Appalachia, and forces u... More
This hilarious, truth-telling debut upends notions of family, protest, and Appalachia, and forces us to reimagine an America we think we know. Less
Stuart, Douglas, 1976- author.
Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely ... More
Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh "Shuggie" Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher's war on heavy industry has put husbands and sons out of work, and the city's notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie's mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie's guiding light but a burden for his artistic brother and practical sister. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a "whoremaster" of a husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good - her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamourous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion's share of each week's benefits - all the family has to live on - on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs. Agnes's older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to look after her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. He is meanwhile doing all he can to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that Shuggie is "no right," and now Agnes's addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her-even and especially her beloved Shuggie. Less
Sekaran, Shanthi, 1977- author.
Solimar Castro-Valdez crosses the US/Mexican border and arrives on her cousin's doorstep in Be... More
Solimar Castro-Valdez crosses the US/Mexican border and arrives on her cousin's doorstep in Berkeley, CA, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant. Amid the uncertainty of new motherhood and her American identity, motherhood becomes Soli's dwelling and the boy at her breast her hearth. Kavya Reddy is a mostly contented chef at a UC Berkeley sorority house. When she can't get pregnant her desire for a child will test her marriage, it will test her sanity, and it will set Kavya and her husband, Rishi, on a collision course with Soli, when she is detained and her infant son comes under Kavya's care. Less
Stage, Zoje, author.
Afflicted with a chronic debilitating condition, Suzette Jensen knew having children would wreak ha... More
Afflicted with a chronic debilitating condition, Suzette Jensen knew having children would wreak havoc on her already fragile body. Nevertheless, she brought Hanna into the world, pleased and proud to start a family with her husband Alex. Estranged from her own mother, Suzette is determined to raise her beautiful daughter with the love, care, and support she was denied. But Hanna proves to be a difficult child. Now seven-years-old, she has yet to utter a word, despite being able to read and write. Defiant and anti-social, she refuses to behave in kindergarten classes, forcing Suzette to homeschool her. Resentful of her mother's rules and attentions, Hanna lashes out in anger, becoming more aggressive every day. The only time Hanna is truly happy is when she's with her father. To Alex, she's willful and precocious but otherwise the perfect little girl, doing what she's told. Suzette knows her clever and manipulative daughter doesn't love her. She can see the hatred and jealousy in her eyes. And as Hanna's subtle acts of cruelty threaten to tear her and Alex apart, Suzette fears her very life may be in grave danger...-- Less
Everything Here is Under Control
Adrian, Emily, author.
Amanda is a new mother, and she is breaking. After a fight with her partner, she puts the baby in t... More
Amanda is a new mother, and she is breaking. After a fight with her partner, she puts the baby in the car and drives from Queens to her hometown in rural Ohio, where she shows up unannounced on the doorstep of her estranged childhood best friend. Amanda thought that she had left Carrie firmly in the past. After their friendship ended, their lives diverged radically: Carrie had a baby the summer after high school, became a successful tattoo artist, and never escaped Ohio's conservative grid of close-cut grass. But the trauma of childbirth and shock of motherhood compel Amanda to go back to the beginning and to trace the tangled roots of friendship and family in her own life. Less
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
Vuong, Ocean, 1988- author.
Brilliant, heartbreaking, tender, and highly original -- poet Ocean Vuong's debut novel is a s... More
Brilliant, heartbreaking, tender, and highly original -- poet Ocean Vuong's debut novel is a sweeping and shattering portrait of a family, and a testament to the redemptive power of storytelling. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family's history that began before he was born--a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam--and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Less
The Golden State
Kiesling, Lydia, 1984- author.
In Lydia Kiesling's debut novel, we accompany Daphne, a young mother on the edge of a breakdow... More
In Lydia Kiesling's debut novel, we accompany Daphne, a young mother on the edge of a breakdown, as she flees her sensible but strained life in San Francisco for the high desert of Altavista with her toddler, Honey. Bucking under the weight of being a single parent--her Turkish husband is unable to return to the United States because of a "processing error"--Daphne takes refuge in a mobile home left to her by her grandparents in hopes that the quiet will bring clarity. Less
The Garden of Small Beginnings
Waxman, Abbi, author.
Young widow Lilian Girvan can't see the garden for the weeds ... It's been three years si... More
Young widow Lilian Girvan can't see the garden for the weeds ... It's been three years since her husband was killed in a car accident and Lilian is still getting used to being sane--after that one early breakdown. She's happy just being able to get her two girls to school every morning, keep her illustrating job, and catch up on her favorite TV shows with her sister. She's not exactly in a rut; she's just letting the grass grow under her feet. But then Lilian's boss asks her to illustrate a vegetable encyclopedia and signs her up for a vegetable-gardening class. Lilian reluctantly agrees and recruits her kids and sister to join her for some drama-free Saturday mornings, because what could be more relaxing than gardening? Nothing ... except that this class is filled with people who like to dig a little deeper than the surface, and an instructor who makes Lillian want to bloom for the first time in years. With her fellow newbie gardeners, Lilian learns what it takes to nurture plants--and friendships. Digging in the dirt, with worms and all, teaches Lilian that sometimes you have to let nature take its course, be it in gardening, in life, or in love.. Less
I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness
Watkins, Claire Vaye, author.
From "the most captivating voice to come out of the West since Annie Proulx" (Vogue), the... More
From "the most captivating voice to come out of the West since Annie Proulx" (Vogue), the furious, hilarious, soul-rending story of one woman's reckoning with marriage, work, sex, and motherhood. Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things. a) As much as I ever did. b) Not quite as much now. c) Not so much now. d) Not at all. Leaving behind her husband, Theo, and their young daughter, Claire, a writer, gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carrying much besides a breast pump--and a creeping case of postpartum depression. But what begins as a temporary escape from domestic duties and an opportunity to reconnect with old friends soon mutates into an extended flight from the confines of marriage and motherhood, and a seemingly bottomless descent into the depths of the past. Deep in the Nevada desert where she grew up, Claire meets her ghosts at every turn: the first love whose suicide still haunts her; her father, a member of the most famous cult in American history; her mother, whose native spark dims with every passing year until all that remains is a smoldering addiction. Claire can't go back in time to make any of it right, but what exactly is her way forward? Alone in the wilderness, she finally finds a way to make herself at home in the world. Bold, tender, and often darkly hilarious, I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness reaffirms the "brutal kind of beauty" (Los Angeles Times) and "mercilessly sharp" vision (NPR) that established Watkins as one of the signal writers of our time. Less
The Kindest Lie
Johnson, Nancy (Novelist), author.
It's 2008, and the rise of Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle,... More
It's 2008, and the rise of Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He's eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to, and abandoned, when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she'd never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past. Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. Determined, Ruth begins digging into the past. As she uncovers burning secrets her family desperately wants to hide, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. When a traumatic incident strains the town's already searing racial tensions, Ruth and Midnight find themselves on a collision course that could upend both their lives. Less
Nothing to See Here
Wilson, Kevin, 1978- author.
Lillian and Madison were unlikely, yet inseparable friends at their boarding school. Then Lillian h... More
Lillian and Madison were unlikely, yet inseparable friends at their boarding school. Then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal, and they have barely spoken since. Years later, Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help. Madison's twin stepkids are moving in, and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there's a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it's the truth. Thinking of the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other while also staying out of the way of Madison's uptight husband. Surprised by her intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her. Could this be the start of the amazing life she'd always hoped for?-- Less
Ask Again, Yes
Keane, Mary Beth, author.
A family saga about two Irish American families in a New York suburb, the love between two of their... More
A family saga about two Irish American families in a New York suburb, the love between two of their children, and the tragedies that threaten to tear them apart and destroy their futures. Less
Kim, Angie, 1969- author.
A literary courtroom thriller about a mother accused of murdering her eight-year-old autistic son.... More
A literary courtroom thriller about a mother accused of murdering her eight-year-old autistic son. Less
The School for Good Mothers
Chan, Jessamine, author.
Set in near-future America, The School for Good Mothers introduces readers to a government-run refo... More
Set in near-future America, The School for Good Mothers introduces readers to a government-run reform program where bad mothers are retrained using robot doll children with artificial intelligence. Protagonist Frida Liu, a 39-year-old Chinese-American single mother in Philadelphia, loses custody of her 18-month-old daughter, Harriet, after she leaves Harriet home alone for two hours on one very bad day. To regain custody, Frida must spend a year at a newly-created institution, where she practices parenting with bad mothers from all over the county. There, she learns to love an uncannily life-like toddler girl doll in order to demonstrate her maternal instincts and prove to her family court judge that she deserves a second chance. Frida is an outsider in every way: better educated, more affluent, and the only Asian. The mothers, whose transgressions range from benign to horrific, are under constant surveillance. If they don't pass all the school's tests, their parental rights will be terminated. Inspired by dystopian classics such as 1984, Never Let Me Go, and The Handmaid's Tale, the novel eviscerates the dominant American parenting culture, while highlighting the tragedy of state-sponsored family separation. Is there one right way to mother? Can a bad mother ever be redeemed? With warmth, heart, and dark humor, the novel tells a timeless story of a mother fighting to win back her child, and her struggle to hold onto her integrity while being indoctrinated. Less
Such a Fun Age
Reid, Kiley, author.
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driv... More
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right. But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other. With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone "family," the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Less
You Will Know Me
Abbott, Megan., 1971- author.
How far will you go to achieve a dream? That's the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie ... More
How far will you go to achieve a dream? That's the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits--until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers--about her daughter's fears, her own marriage, and herself--forces Katie to consider whether there's any price she isn't willing to pay to achieve Devon's dream. Less
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
When her notorious, hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled, and agoraphobic mother goes missing, t... More
When her notorious, hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled, and agoraphobic mother goes missing, teenage Bee begins a trip that takes her to the ends of the earth to find her. Less