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Publisher's Summary

A richly detailed, darkly hilarious novel of a family held together and torn apart by its narcissistic matriarch.

To those in her Cape Cod town, Mother is an exemplar of piety, frugality, and hard work. To her husband and seven children, she is the selfish, petty tyrant of Mother Land. She excels at playing her offspring against each other. Her favorite, Angela, died in childbirth; only Angela really understands her, she tells the others. The others include the officious lawyer, Fred; the uproarious professor, Floyd; a pair of inseparable sisters whose devotion to Mother has consumed their lives; and JP, the narrator, a successful writer whose work she disparages. As she lives well past the age of 100, her brood struggles with and among themselves to shed her viselike hold on them.

Mother Land is a piercing portrait of how a parent's narcissism impacts a family. While the particulars of this tale are unique, Theroux encapsulates with acute clarity and wisdom a circumstance that is familiar to legions of listeners. And beyond offering the shock and comfort of recognition, Mother Land presents for everyone an engrossing, heartbreaking, and often funny saga of a vast family that bickers, colludes, connives, and ultimately overcomes the painful ties that bind them.

©2017 Paul Theroux (P)2017 Recorded Books

What listeners say about Mother Land

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The Inner Dynamics of a Large Massachusetts Family

This is a long, semi-autobiographical novel about a large, 9 person Catholic family living Northeastern US. I am a third thru it, and have thoroughly enjoyed Theroux's intelligent, perceptive and sometimes hilarious observations about family dynamics. I too was raised in an 8-person, Pennsylvania Catholic family, so I'm familiar with many of the inner-dynamics that are inevitable in large families. I worried that the novel might focus too much attention on Catholicism, [a subject beaten to death and now quite boring], but was delighted to find that [so far] there is little or no attention paid to it. The focus is on the interpersonal dynamics between the 9 members of the family, from their early years thru adulthood and death. Mature serious themes. Also like Theroux, I was a Peace Crops Volunteer in Africa, traveled widely throughout my overseas career, and have read almost everything he's published. So I was delighted when I recently discovered that I'd somehow missed this delightful novel, and even more delighted when I discovered it to be one his most enjoyable reads. The reader/performer is excellent ... he obviously studied the work carefully, and his performance is near perfect and aids considerably in better understanding and enjoying the novel. Highly recommended, especially for anyone who was raised in a large family.

1 person found this helpful

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A difficult and long read, but glad I finished it

Mother Land was a very long and challenging book for me to read. I didn't relate to any the characters and it took me until the end to have a better understanding of mother and the other siblings. I read it as a book club selection but it is not a book that I would recommend to the casual reader. I didn't understand the relationships or the need to re-live their spats, fights and general put downs of each other within the family. The sub-stories within the story will remain with me for some time but not in a positive way. The authors ability to write well and to paint a picture with his words was excellent. I just didn't enjoy the pictures painted or the degradation of mother (or the family members, including partners etc.) to be things that I remember. I give it 3 stars.

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Why?

I can only guess it was written to propitiate the porcelain god. There seems no other point.

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Caustic story. Think of them as caricatures.

Much of this story parallels the life of the author but it is so over the top mean, snarky and harsh that o finally decided to think of all of the family members as broadly drawn caricatures.
Too dysfunctional with no relief. No ones family is this horrible. I wish the narrator had put a bit of sarcasm in his voice. When I did that it seemed more
like the usual nasty sibling aside you hear from sharp tongues.
A bit like rubber necking a bad accident on the highway. It was repetitive and the main character is whiney and feels sorry for himself but I am still glad I finished it.

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celebrates the mediocrity of the American family

Lots of characters, but the central one is mother, who lives until 104. She has 8 children, but the one that died, Angela, is celebrated yearly and mothers care taker is also named Angela, who JP the character we are to assume is Paul himself, falls in love with. I could get how he feels. I too live abroad and have felt closer to Latino, Asian and Africans along the way. Family is complicated and once you are grown flying the coop is a lot more interesting. His brother Gilbert often visits the Middle East and Fred, the lawyer, frequents China. the other characters were rather dull. Accept for Floyd, the poet, who manages to have a number of colorful lines, which had me running for the dictionary.