Book Recs Novels

Book Recs: Books about Mothers

This is a call for book recommendations!

Last week, reader Dina commented asking for book recs that have “interesting and complex characters who happen to be mothers,” like Catelyn Stark. Characters who are mothers, but who retain their own personalities as well.

And I have to admit, I’m pretty stumped. I certainly can’t think of any books where the mother is the┬ámain character, although I have a few where mothers are interesting secondary characters.

So please help! If you know any books that fit the description, please comment and let us know. ­čÖé

For my (not entirely fitting) recommendations, I have:

Tides by Betsy Cornwell (not a mother character, but the grandmother character is a fascinating figure with a rich story)

Eleanor & Park┬áby Rainbow Rowell (the mother characters aren’t the main focus by any stretch, but they’ve very interesting and have a lot of depth)

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (about a woman who can’t have children, and her semi-adoption of a fairy tale like child who lives in the wilds of Alaska)

Bleak House┬áby Charles Dickens (the mother character is fabulous, although it’s not exactly clear who she is until the end).


  1. Kate

    December 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Nearly everything by Lois McMaster Bujold, of course. Cordelia (and others) in the Vorkosigan books, Ista (and others) in the Chalion books.

  2. Laura T

    December 4, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    I like the central character’s portrayal as a mother in American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, although she isn’t a mother until the last third of the book. I had some issues with the main character in Sittenfeld’s latest, Sisterland, but she is certainly (a) a mother and (b) not defined entirely by motherhood.

  3. Rose

    December 4, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde.
    Thursday isn’t a mother in the first book but she is in most of the others. She’s a detective in a rather surreal universe. In some of the books she’s a single mother to a baby and her husband has been deleted from the timestream. She’s the one who has to rescue the husband that no one else believes to exist.
    In the later books her kids are teenagers.

  4. Mary

    December 4, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    The Amelia Peabody Mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. It’s a very entertaining archeology/mystery series in 19th century England/Egypt, told in the POV of Amelia Peabody (later Peabody-Emmerson). It starts out with her being an “old maid” who goes adventuring and at the end of book 1 she gets married. From book 2 on she’s a wife and mother and still every bit the genius archeologist/detective who has adventures and solves mysteries with her whole family tagging along.

  5. Calvin

    December 5, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver. The book is narrated by the mother.

  6. ravenya003

    December 10, 2013 at 1:16 am

    She’s not exactly a main character, but there’s Jessica Atreides from Frank Herbert’s Dune. She’s compelling, she’s powerful, there are several pages told from her POV, and her strongest relationship in the book is that she shares with Paul, her son.

  7. Dina

    December 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks everyone for all the bok recommandations, and thanks Rhiannon for asking!

  8. Victoria

    January 7, 2014 at 2:50 am

    Perhaps “Mother of Mine” (“├äideist├Ą parhain”) by Heikki Hietamies? It was also made into film (same name) in 2005.

  9. Raisa

    March 20, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    The second book of Juliet Marillier’s original Sevenwaters trilogy, Son of the Shadows, stars a young woman who MAY OR MAY NOT keep her unborn child and raise it alone. She defends her motherhood but is not entirely defined by it.

  10. C.L. Lynch

    November 5, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    I would add Novalee Nation from Where the Heart Is. She goes from a passive, pregnant 17 year old girl who ends up being dumped by her garbage boyfriend and left homeless at a Walmart, to a confidant, capable woman who makes her own choices and makes a life for herself.

What do you think?