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For Mother’s Day Read Books on Mothers, Motherhood, and More

On Motherhood

This Mother’s Day, we’re looking back on eight titles that explore motherhood in all its complexity—joy, grief, sacrifice, love, and everything in between. From sweeping-yet-intimate matrilineal sagas set in Kerala, India, and Ropshitz, Poland, to memoirs of mother-and-daughterhood that are both tender and raw, these eight books show the intensity, diversity, and wonder of motherhood across time, culture, and circumstance.


Fi by Alexandra Fuller

From the award-winning New York Times–bestselling author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller, comes a career-defining memoir about grieving the sudden loss of her twenty-one-year-old child. No stranger to loss—young siblings, a parent, a home country—Alexandra is nonetheless leveled. At the same time, she is painfully aware that she cannot succumb and abandon her two surviving daughters as her mother before her had done. By turns disarming, devastating, and unexpectedly, blessedly funny, Alexandra recounts the wild medicine of painstakingly grieving a child in a culture that has no instructions for it.

“Fuller is sagacious and perspicacious. She is a sublime writer. In the hands of another memoirist, the story of Fi might be unbearably sad, but this book is a mesmeric celebration of a boy who died too soon, a mother’s love and her resilience. It will help others surviving loss—surviving life.”—David Sheff, New York Times


City of Laughter by Temim Fruchter

An ambitious, delirious novel that tangles with queerness, spirituality, and generational silence, City of Laughter announces Temim Fruchter as a fresh and assured new literary voice. The tale of a young queer woman stuck in a thicket of generational secrets, the novel spans four generations of Eastern European Jewish women bound by blood, half-hidden secrets, and the fantastical visitation of a shapeshifting stranger over the course of 100 years. Electric and sharply intimate, City of Laughter zigzags between our universe and a tapestry of real and invented Jewish folklore, asking how far we can travel from the stories that have raised us without leaving them behind.

“A wondrous intergenerational story of queerness and Jewish folklore . . . Fruchter draws on folk tales both real and imagined to create a tender and unforgettable portrait of Jewish culture, faith, and community. This dazzling and hopeful novel is not to be missed.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)


Invisible Woman by Katia Lief

Joni Ackerman’s decision to raise children, twenty-five years ago, came with a steep cost. She was then a pioneering filmmaker, but she and her television-producer husband Paul had always wanted a family. Now, a scandal rocks the film industry and forces Joni to revisit a secret from long ago involving her friend Val. Joni is adamant that the time has come to tell the story, but Val and Paul are reluctant, for different reasons. As the marriage frays and the friends spar about whether to speak up, Joni’s resentments about the sacrifices she made on her family’s behalf start to boil over. Invisible Woman is at once a literary thriller about the lies we tell each other (and ourselves), and a powerful psychological examination of the complexities of friendship, marriage, and motherhood.

“Katia Lief’s Invisible Woman is a stunning achievement: it’s not only a taut thriller with a jaw-dropping twist, but also a literary exploration of the complexities of marriage and friendship, and a timely tribute to women who were silenced for all too long. The novel will stay with you long after you finish the last page.”—Alex Finlay, bestselling author of Every Last Fear


Prophet Song by Paul Lynch

On a dark, wet evening in Dublin, scientist and mother-of-four Eilish Stack answers her front door to find two officers from Ireland’s newly formed secret police on her step. They have arrived to interrogate her husband, a trade unionist. Ireland is falling apart, caught in the grip of a government turning towards tyranny. Now, Eilish must contend with the dystopian logic of her new, unraveling country. How far will she go to save her family? And what—or who—is she willing to leave behind? The winner of the Booker Prize 2023, Prophet Song presents a terrifying and shocking vision of a country sliding into authoritarianism and a deeply human portrait of a mother’s fight to hold her family together.

“A triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing and brave . . . Readers will find it soul-shattering and true, and will not soon forget its warnings.”—Esi Edugyan, Chair of the Booker Prize 2023 Judges


The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water is set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning. At the turn of the century, a twelve-year-old girl from Kerala, grieving the death of her father, is sent by boat to her wedding. From this unforgettable new beginning, the young girl—and future matriarch, known as Big Ammachi—will witness unthinkable changes over the span of her extraordinary life, full of joy and triumph as well as hardship and loss, her faith and love the only constants. A shimmering evocation of a bygone India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the difficulties undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today.

“One of the best books I’ve read in my entire life. It’s epic. It’s transportive . . . It was unputdownable!”—Oprah Winfrey, OprahDaily.com


Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Blindsided by her mother’s sudden death, and wrecked by a recent love affair, Casey Peabody has arrived in Massachusetts in the summer of 1997 without a plan. Her mail consists of wedding invitations and final notices from debt collectors, but she is still clutching onto something nearly all her old friends have let go of: the determination to live a creative life. When she falls for two very different men at the same time, her world fractures even more. Casey’s fight to fulfill her creative ambitions and balance the conflicting demands of art and life is challenged in ways that push her to the brink. Written with King’s trademark humor, heart, and intelligence, Writers & Lovers is a transfixing novel that explores the terrifying and exhilarating leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another.

“Among the elements that make Writers & Lovers so winning are the perfectly calibrated little details, convincing conversations, and droll wit . . . Writers & Lovers is a book about passion, desire, grief, determination, and finding one’s way. It’s also about craving love, family, and success . . . generously infused with heart and soul and wit and wisdom.”—NPR


Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents—artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs—Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa’s father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her and his attention was thrilling, but he could also be cold, critical, and unpredictable. When her relationship with her mother grew strained in high school, Lisa decided to move in with her father, hoping he’d become the parent she’d always wanted him to be. Small Fry is Brennan-Jobs’s poignant story of a childhood spent between two imperfect but extraordinary homes. Part portrait of a complex family, part love letter to California in the seventies and eighties, Small Fry is an enthralling book by an insightful new literary voice.

“Extraordinary . . . An aching, exquisitely told story of a young woman’s quest for belonging and love.”—People, “Book of the Week”


The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

A startlingly beautiful story of a family’s survival, The End We Start From is a searing original, a modern-day parable of rebirth and renewal, of maternal bonds, and the instinct to survive and thrive in the absence of all that’s familiar. As London is submerged below floodwaters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, she and her baby are forced to leave their home in search of safety. Their journey traces fear and wonder as the baby grows, thriving and content against all the odds. The End We Start From is an indelible and elemental first book—a lyrical vision of the strangeness and beauty of new motherhood, and a tale of endurance in the face of ungovernable change.

The End We Start From is a stunning tale of motherhood. Megan has crafted a striking and frighteningly real story of a family fighting for survival that will make everyone stop and think about what kind of planet we are leaving behind for our children.”—Benedict Cumberbatch


Plus, we’re looking ahead to the fall with Blue Light Hours (out 10/15), the atmospheric and wise debut novel from the National Book Award–winning translator Bruna Dantas Lobato.


Blue Light Hours by Bruna Dantas Lobato

In a small dorm room at a liberal arts college in Vermont, a young woman settles into the warm blue light of her desk lamp before calling the mother she left behind in northeastern Brazil. In the blue glow of their computers, the two women develop new rituals of intimacy and caretaking, from drinking whiskey together in the middle of the night to keeping watch as one slides into sleep. As the warm colors of New England autumn fade into an endless winter snow, each realizes that the promise of spring might mean difficult endings rather than hopeful beginnings. Blue Light Hours is a powerful portrait of a mother and a daughter coming of age together and apart and explores the profound sacrifices and freedoms that come with leaving a home to make a new one somewhere else.

Blue Light Hours is a spellbinding meditation on distance and intimacy, holding close and letting go. In attentive linguistic brush strokes, Bruna Dantas Lobato offers a tender and dynamic portrait of the mutual care between a mother and a daughter as they navigate life apart. Resplendent.”—Tess Gunty, author of The Rabbit Hutch, winner of the National Book Award