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10 Bad Mothers in Books We Love

Literature is filled with wonderful mothers – Ma Ingalls in all the Little House books, Marmee in Little Women, the tormented Sophie Zawistowski in Sophie’s Choice. But you know, it’s the bad mothers in books who often make the novels they’re in really catch our attention, isn’t it? The worse the better!

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  1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – Charlotte Haze willfully puts her daughter in Humbert Humbert’s path to ensure a comfortable life for herself. Too bad it doesn’t end so well for her.
  2. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth – For goodness sake, Sophie, leave the poor boy alone!
  3. Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford  – Joan Crawford became the standard-bearer for bad mothering and padded-hanger enthusiasts after this memoir was published.
  4. Carrie by Stephen King – Margaret, Carrie’s mother, subjects Carrie to such horrible treatment that it’s no wonder she went absolutely bonkers. The two movie versions are just so-so, but the book is a masterpiece of horror.
  5. White Oleander by Janet Fitch – Can you say narcissistic, neglectful bitch? This novel gets our vote for the contemporary book with the worst mother. If you’ve seen the movie, Michelle Pfeiffer portrays her to icy perfection.
  6. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy – Yes, the real monster in this book is the father, but WHERE was the mother? Why didn’t she step in?
  7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett – While Skeeter’s mother Charlotte wasn’t exactly awful, she sure missed the boat in many ways about her daughter.
  8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Daisy Buchanan is a neglectful and uninterested mother, but that’s not surprising.
  9. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – Oh that Scarlett. Not only does she have two unattractive children with first husband Frank Kennedy before the beautiful (and doomed) Bonnie Blue Butler is born, but she has no interest in being a mother at all. Fiddle-dee-dee.
  10. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple – As much as this book is entertaining and wonderfully written, it does hinge on the fact that Bernadette runs away from home – and her child. There’s humor in everything.

Sharon Greenthal

Sharon's blog, <a href="">Empty House Full Mind</a>, focuses on observations of the world from the midlife empty nest. Sharon is the Young Adults Expert on <a href=""></a>. Sharon writes for the <a href="">Huffington Post</a> and <a href="">Purple Clover</a>. Sharon is the mother of two grown children - a daughter, 26 and a son, 24. She lives in Long Beach, CA with her husband and their perfect dog, Lambeau. Instagram: sharongreenthal

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