“My Evil Mother” by Margaret Atwood

Genre: General Fiction/Short StoryMy Evil Mother
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Pub. Date: April 1, 2022

If you are expecting to read a horror novel, this short story is not for you. There is nothing scary in this fun, light-hearted novella. That is unless you consider exploring the mother/daughter relationship frightening. Life is difficult enough for our unnamed fifteen-year-old narrator. In the 1950s, she and her single mother live alone in a middle-class suburban neighborhood. Not too many single moms back then so our protagonist might have felt out of place anyway. However, she is further teased in school because her mother acts oddly. The rumors are that her mom is a crazy person. At home, just between the two of them, her mother has always claimed that she is a witch with insights into the future. This is where all the fun comes in.

Since childhood, her mother has given her some peculiar advice, much of which is intrusive, and downright bizarre. As a four-year-old when she asked her mom a question, mom would reply, “go ask your father.” According to her mom, her dad is the garden gnome. There are many other hilarious exchanges between the mother and her resentful daughter, with the added twist that this mother may or may not be a witch. You will read of the customary mother-daughter squabbles about a boyfriend. However, the mother’s point in this story is not that the boy is unsuitable for the daughter. Rather, the mother informs her daughter that she must break up with the boy because if they continue together, he would die in a car accident, which she will be held responsible for. What a brilliant technique to break your teenager’s romance without having to worry about her sneaking off with him behind your back.

When the daughter is especially teenage challenging the mother threatens that she will “point,” at her. It seems this is how the father became a gnome. The author keeps us wondering whether the mom is insane or using unorthodox impressive parenting skills. As the years pass, our protagonist alternates between believing that her mother is performing witchcraft, or simply a quirky and troubled woman. Either way, this is a perfectly crafted short story about the lengths mothers will go to protect their daughters. Few authors could condense and catch the dynamics of the mother-daughter relationship into so few pages written in such an unusual manner. Margaret Atwood may be in her 80s but her writing skills are still as sharp as a sorceress’ knife. And, every bit as powerful as a witch’s brew.  

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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