Anyone who’s lost their mom has probably noticed that in the aftermath it suddenly seems as though moms are everywhere. We can’t turn on the TV, watch a movie, pick up a magazine, or read a book without being inundated by moms and daughters (or sons) bonding, bickering, pulling together, and generally being there for each other.
Meanwhile, here we are with nothing but memories and old photos. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that Mother’s Day has officially become the worst day of the year. It might just be a greeting card holiday, but it’s almost impossible not to feel a stabbing in the heart every time you’re exhorted to show Mom you care, buy her flowers, take her out to brunch…hell, even contests and game shows around this time of year are geared to mother-child teams. You can’t even win a coffeemaker unless you’ve got your mom backing you up.
The problem with grief is that if you try to ignore it, it just bides its time before rising up again when you least expect it and biting you on the ass. Unpleasant as grief is, it’s better to just do whatever you have to in order to deal with it right away. I’m guessing it goes without saying that anyone reading this already understands the therapeutic value of books. For me, my therapy comes in the form of “guilty pleasure” novels: solid—if not too serious—writing and plots with satisfying endings (there’s a reason most don’t turn to the literary section of the bookstore when they’re depressed), heroines I can relate to, heroes I want to bring home, baddies who are easy to hate (or have potential for redemption), and preferably some sort of paranormal element to spark my imagination. And nothing anywhere about the special love shared between mothers and daughters.
It’s surprisingly difficult to find books that meet these criteria. At first they can seem exactly right and then out of nowhere a character’s mom pops up as a plot device, or worse—as a character in her own right. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t want to read about how annoying/bossy/demanding/choose-your-own-negative-adjective our hero or heroine’s mom is when all I’m thinking about is how much I miss my own. And I really don’t want to read about how the heroine and her mom are BFFs. It’s one of those grief things.
So in the interest of helping others in this predicament I thought I’d share some of my favorite therapy options. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section.
Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips: I think the Greek gods are underappreciated these days and Marie Phillips clearly agrees with me. This one is funny, disturbing (nothing traumatizing), sweet, and—dare I say—thought-provoking. Not bad. The afterlife plays a large part in the story, which might bother some; I was fine with it, but use your own judgment.
Unbound by Lori Devoti: Devoti takes an interest in Norse mythology and spins it into an engaging tale of witches and shapeshifters. I particularly like that the book keeps you guessing about whether things will work out for the various characters. I read this one a while back and it’s one of the few romances that get to keep taking up coveted shelf space.
Angel’s Pain by Maggie Shayne: Not my favorite of Shayne’s vampire books, but it’s solid, low on sappiness, and focuses on two of her more interesting characters. Besides, my actual favorite, Edge of Twilight, is all about the subject we’re trying to avoid (but worth a read when you feel up to it).
Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews: I love the world Ilona Andrews has created. Magic and tech vie for dominance, each giving way to the other without notice, while humans and the full spectrum of paranormal creatures have to be prepared for every possibility. As a writer this has got to be a fantastic world to play in. And it’s not too shabby for readers, either.
Moongazer by Marianne Mancusi: This one’s just cool. If you threw sci-fi, fantasy, action, and romance into a blender, then added a dash of Running Man and eXistenZ, you’d get this book. I was disappointed when it ended because there wasn’t any more to read.
Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth: My current read, and one I can’t put down. A vicious vampire bound by magic spends his nights protecting the U.S. from a legion of attackers, both human and paranormal. There’s even a little vampire on vampire action thrown in to keep it from being all business. There are a couple of stomach-churning bits so sensitive types might want to avoid this one but I can’t wait to get started on Farnsworth’s next installment, The President’s Vampire.
Saying I’m not looking forward to Mother’s Day this year is an understatement. But with an iced latte, a comfortable spot, and a good book, I can at least face it.
Latte + book image courtesy of nerissa's ring via Flickr
Aspasia Bissas is the author of three blogs, including the all-vampire Blood Lines; was featured in Truly, Madly Deadly: The Unofficial True Blood Companion; and is currently working on a vampire novel of her own. Although she’s occasionally been known to read minds, she has yet to solve any mysteries. Follow her on Twitter @bloodandpoppies.