Friday, June 4, 2010

Review of the Day: Missing Mom

Missing Mom is the story of how an adult daughter copes with the unexpected death of her widowed mother. Nikki Eaton is 32, single, involved with a married man, and seems barely ready for adulthood. Her mother’s death knocks her off her pins.

Coping is the best way to describe what Nikki goes through in her first year of mourning. She and her older sister, the bossy, no-nonsense Clare, realize that their mother was the only real bond between them as they work together to organize the formal ceremonies, sort through their parents’ belongings, and try to keep their personal lives intact.

Through this process, as Nikki comes to understand more about her mother, she understands more about herself. Nikki is not the most admirable of heroines – she has a whiney, self-indulgent streak and spends more time than an insecure teen-ager worrying about what outfit to wear – but she starts to mature as, groping for a way through her grief, she takes on some of her mother’s habits and social obligations.

Oates is unflinching in her portrayal of both the heartbreak and banality of losing a mother. Scenes such as Nikki reading her mother’s old love letters are all the more poignant for being balanced by scenes of cleaning out the freezer or filling bags for the Goodwill. Oates manages to make the story emotionally authentic without being gooey or maudlin.


Somehow, although she is prolific, this is the first Joyce Carol Oates book I have read. It really hit me and I keep thinking about it, weeks after I finished it.

(If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)


  1. I ordered this from Paperback Swap yesterday after reading your review here. We Were the Mulvaneys is one of my all-time favorite books. Don't know why I haven't read more Joyce Carol Oates, but plan to now.


  2. I have this book on my TBR shelf but I haven't read it yet. Looking forward to it!

  3. I've never read any of Joyce Carol Oates work, but don't think I could deal with this one right now.

  4. Oh great review! I´ve only discovered JCO recently myself but loved the few I´ve read by her. It´s so amazing to discover an author who is prolific as well as very talented.

    If you can stomach it, I´d recommend "Rape. A Love Story". It was my introduction to her :)

  5. Oh and not to be creepily anonymous, I´m Bina from
    (forgot to sign out grom google :) )

  6. JHS -- I hope you enjoy it. And I am going to get the Mulvaneys book.

    Julie -- Enjoy! So often I read some review or discussion on a blog and it reminds me that I have that book on my shelf.

    Bermuda -- I can understand. I hope your dad is doing ok.

    Rye/Bina -- I know what you mean. Sometimes I have the irrational thought that i will run out of books, then "discover" some author and realize how crazy I am.

    I don't know about Rape: A Love Story. I just looked it up on amazon and I don't know if I could handle it. Yikes!

  7. We Were The Mulvaneys is excellent and the only book I have read by this author.

    I have heard good things about Missing Mom but fear I would find it too difficult to read.


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