Most of us can testify to the truth of Holden Caufield's observation in Salinger's novel, The Catcher in the Rye. A touch of insanity is, after all, required in order to to actually raise children, run a household, hold down a job outside the house, and still find time to read a book or two. And where is the best place to find more than just slightly insane mothers? Within the pages of a novel, of course. Here are five of my favorite mothers in literature, running the gamut from slightly wacky to downright bat-shit crazy:
WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? by Maria Semple. Bernadette's antics, the result of her anxiety-filled days trapped in Seattle, makes her entirely beloved to both readers and her daughter, but despite the laughter, the fact that she disappears off the face of the Earth while on a trip to Antarctica makes her more than just a little crazy - anxiety or no. Bernadette may be endearing and funny, but she's also at least a 7 on the crazy mother scale.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN by Lionel Shriver. Eva is the mother of a teenage killer. As she relates his childhood, it becomes clear that her inability to connect to her son in any meaningful way might well have played a role in shaping the monster he would become. Was it nature or nurture? Everyone is going to have a different opinion on this, but for my money, Eva earns at least a 9 on the crazy scale.
THE DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD by Rebecca Wells. When the whole family thing gets to be too much, Vivi just gets in her car and drives to a hotel at the beach where she sleeps until she can face motherhood again. Admit it, this is every mother's secret fantasy. But to actually do it? Without telling your family where you're going or if you're ever coming back? Yeah, that's probably a good solid 5 on the crazy scale.
MOTHER, MOTHER by Koren Zailckas. Josephine has some serious control issues. But it takes a lot of work to keep up that facade of a perfect home and family. When her children step out of line, she has one daughter committed to a mental institution and the other daughter "runs away"....or does she? Josephine is a definite 10 on the crazy scale.
MILDRED PIERCE by James M. Cain. Ah, Mildred. You might think Mildred was more misguided than crazy. After all, she simply indulged her spoiled daughter until Vida finally stole the one thing Mildred really loved: her new husband. You would think Mildred would finally wake up and smell the coffee. But no. Instead of seeing her evil daughter for what she really is, Mildred proceeds to put herself firmly on the crazy scale. Somewhere around a 6 or so.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. Here's to keeping our crazy anywhere below a 5.