Books That Will Make You Hug Your Kids... Tightly

shelved under Parenting and Fiction

I've been a mother for 9 years now and I've always been a voracious reader. I don't read nearly the volume I once did due to time constraints, and I find I have little patience if a book doesn't grab me from the first few pages. I also notice that books about children, and their relationships (and/or lack thereof) with their mothers, have a huge impact on me now, mostly because they serve as a reminder that it's a complicated thing, this motherhood. The books in this list sent me running to hug my kids at various points during my reading of them... mostly for my comfort rather than theirs. 


Loving Frank

by Nancy Horan

How can a mother leave both of her young children for an egomaniacal architect? Read Loving Frank and sort of find out... or not. Could any of us do the same? Probably not, but I still found myself unable to completely judge Mamah.


The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

I read this during a rare nor'easter on the Outer Banks. There's no mother in this book, and maybe that's the problem? This is more about the pain children can cause each other, and the damage that you do when you build a wall around your heart. It's also a beautiful ode to Afghanistan, and kite running.


The Prince of Tides

by Pat Conroy

A friend recommended this in college, so I read more from the perspective of being a kid, rather than having one. It'd be interesting to read it again and see if my perspective's much different. Finally, I understood why the South lost the war. Not really, but I did have that "wow, it's not just me" moment. And I learned a few things you should NEVER say to your kids.

This book also appears on Ernie Chen's Favorite Fiction


Cutting for Stone

by Abraham Verghese

Another motherless setting with conjoined twins who finally meet their father as adults, but realize their foster parents were even better than the real thing. Verghese does a great job of characterization, both of people and settings. This book is like a great big hug.

This book also appears on The Best Books of 2009


The Heretic's Daughter

by Kathleen Kent

This wasn't the great read for the initial reason I thought it was going to be; instead, I marvelled at the parents — their goodness and the lengths they went to ensure their children had better lives than they. It was good to see the story unfold from the daughter's eyes as her mother makes the biggest sacrifice a mother can.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

I actually disliked the parents in this book...or did I? Their actions in any other child's life might not have been so detrimental, but they turned their son Christopher's world upside down. And yet, they were human, too, and are entitled to some leeway simply for living with him. Then again, perhaps they were obligated to be a bit better than the average parents.


Songs for the Missing

by Stewart O'Nan

More about the ones left behind, than the missing, O'Nan explores the affect of one daughter's disappearance over the course of her family's summer. It's heartbreaking but maybe not for all of the reasons you might expect. O'Nan puts us inside each family member's mind and it's all believable. The biggest thing I noticed was how true the characters were, I felt like I knew them, like I could be them.


Sarah's Key

by Tatiana de Rosnay

A small boy left in a cupboard during a World War II home invasion, with a promise by his sister to come back for him. Can you imagine? I could not, and still can't.


The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

A five star read for me. Death as a narrator sounds off-putting but don't let that stop you. There are big moments here, heroic and redemptive, but the time and time again, it was more about the enduring human spirit. It's about fate and love and books and fabulous words. And, the last line of the novel... unbelievable. It'll simply blow you away. Oh yeah, and there's not much of a mother in this one either, but certainly, some huge mother figures.


The Secret Life of Bees

by Sue Monk Kidd

Okay, so maybe this one's a little sappy and predictable, but I remember one scene with a hairbrush that broke my heart. The motherless daughter in this book never stops searching and hoping, and the premise that perhaps she's the reason her mother is no longer there is almost too much to bear.



by Amy Bloom

Lillian's family is brutally massacred one night, sending her in search of a new life in America. Upon hearing her daughter may still be alive, Lillian's life becomes a quest to find her. It's a wonderful read, full of great moments and images, like "it hurts to be in a warm and pretty place, even if it's not to everyone's taste, and to feel that you're the odd thing in it." Lillian's sad story touched me many times over, and I will always have a warm feeling when I think of it. The mother aspect of this book was secondary for me... the writing, though, is the bomb.