Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth
“Eating, love’s natural, bloody conclusion that can never, ever be indulged, because then the thing you love is destroyed. And maybe not destroying the thing you love, resisting that impulse, is the highest expression of love.”
Fall is in full swing, meaning it’s time to curl up in a cozy nook with a spiced beverage and the most stomach-churning, grimace-inducing, brain-breaking horror novels I can get my hands on. The first of many for this year’s spooky season read-a-thon was Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth.
Right off the bat, I’m going to throw out some trigger warnings for this novel because…yikes is it full of them.
I suggest looking at a complete list online, but here are a few that jump out at me immediately upon reflecting on this story: sexual assault discussion, suicide, self-harm, murder, emotional abuse, and parental neglect.
Motherthing is a strangely feminist and darkly funny domestic horror novel about a woman desperately trying to save her husband and herself from the vengeful ghost of her manipulative mother-in-law. Bold, provocative, and extremely disturbing even for horror-loving readers, this novel is the definition of “not for everyone.” Draped in graphic grief from page one, Motherthing starts with a suicide before quickly transitioning into a slow-building, anxiety-filled spiral toward madness.
Abby and Ralph Lamb are an average, happy couple preparing to start their own family until Ralph’s mother, Laura, turns their whole world upside down by insisting they move in with her, then dying by suicide in the basement. Abby has tried desperately to please her mother-in-law, but Laura is as cruel in death as she was in life, choosing to haunt the young couple still living in her home. Now Ralph, the usually adoring husband, is withdrawing into a depression filled with hallucinatory despair.
With Ralph skipping work to spend his days napping and conversing with his dead mother’s ghost, Abby quickly finds herself isolated from the support system she’s come to rely on.
This isolation only deepens when her one source of comfort, Mrs. Bondy, a non-verbal patient at Abby’s nursing home, is set to be moved to a different facility by her horrible, neglectful daughter.
Abby is thrust into a world of discomfort and paranoia as she struggles to find a way to heal her husband, banish the ghost of her mother-in-law, and keep her favorite client within reach.
At the start of Motherthing, Abby appears to be our sane, reliable narrator, but it quickly becomes evident that Abby is being haunted by more than one ghost. Raised by a nasty, self-absorbed mom who cared more for her long string of short-term boyfriends than her own daughter, Abby had to mother herself from a very young age. Playing mother to herself throughout her childhood has led to an obsession with being the perfect “Motherthing” to her husband, her clients, and the imaginary clump of cells that she believes is growing inside her. The pressure builds as we witness Abby’s slow spiral into a pit of madness.
Reading Motherthing, it never feels like you can fully commit to a single reality as this book continually shifts and moves the narrative, leaving the reader in a disorienting fog.
Very The Shining-esque, this story felt like being slowly boiled alive, building up to an exhilaratingly gruesome breaking point. The end is remarkable, leaving me with almost nothing negative to say about Motherthing beyond the stilted and strange writing style that won’t be a fit for every reader.
Copies of Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth are available to purchase at Bookshop Benicia or to check out as an audiobook with the local library. Enjoy the spooky season, and be sure to tag me (@beniciabooktails) in your Instagram posts so I can see what else you’re adding to your October TBRs!
Sweet Apple Crisp
1oz Tequila (Ritual Zero Proof for NA)
Dash of Orange Bitters (All the Bitter for NA)
4oz Apple cider
1tsp Maple syrup
Optional- Cinnamon sugar rim
- Add apple cider, maple syrup, orange bitters, lime juice, and tequila to a shaker with ice and shake it up.
- Add cinnamon sugar to the rim of a glass using lime juice to make it stick.
- Add ice to your favorite glass or mug, and then pour.
Sip Tip: Have fun with garnishes. Apple slices, cinnamon sticks, and star anise are all great options!