Like Mother: an unsettling but entirely realistic depiction of motherhood and its never-ending challenges

Written by Molly Magennis / @mollymag3

Is a woman’s home her castle or her cage?

It’s 1969 and Louise Ashland is a first-time mother to a newborn. Not only does she have to juggle the responsibility of caring for a baby, but she also has the house to look after, a husband to keep happy, and an overbearing mother to keep at bay. 

Like Mother allows the reader a peek into Louise’s life, exploring a particular day when all the stress and pressures that come with being a new mother and a housewife starts to build up and slowly crumble around her. The novel follows Louise as she slowly begins to unravel, and to make matters worse, she also can’t quite remember where she put her daughter, Dolores, down to sleep.

Australian author Cassandra Austin’s new novel is cleverly written, with the perfect amount of suspense and intrigue to keep the reader wanting more. To have the novel explore one particular day was genius, as it kept me captivated throughout the entire story – I was itching to know what was going to happen at the end of this crazy day.

The realistic struggles of motherhood that plagued Louise were heartbreaking but well depicted and I think Like Mother will hit a nerve with new or experienced mothers all around the world. 

Austin paints a world in which a mother isn’t coping, which was refreshing to see. Motherhood is nowhere near easy or perfect as many mothers on social media would have you believe. Being a mother is hard and exhausting and it’s okay not to be okay.

I think portraying motherhood in this way is so important, and it’s a shame the myriad of struggles associated with being a mother (and a woman in general) aren’t represented in other forms of art and media.

I also particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Louise and her intrusive mother, Gladys. This relationship brought about the interesting concept of the ever changing relationship between a mother and a daughter, when one day a daughter is not only a child but a mother herself. 

These shifting roles and how this affected Gladys’ behaviour towards Louise made for an extremely interesting and thought-provoking read.

Like Mother also explores events of the past that come back to haunt both Louise and Gladys. This added immensely to their overall character development and also helped to explain certain behaviours and actions of both these central characters.

Overall, Austin succeeds in being able to write an extremely engaging and fast-paced novel that is sure to keep the reader from putting down the book before they reach the end. Like Mother is a fresh new take on the trials and tribulations of being a young new mother. I have no doubt mothers (and daughters) around the world will find welcome relief in being able to relate to someone who experiences the same struggles as them. 

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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