The Mother's Day Garden
by Kimberly Cates, contemporary (2002)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-1886-7


I really like the title of this book. The Mother's Day Garden - sigh. But that's it, really. A big thank you and eat this to Kimberly Cates for depicting the institution of motherhood as one for the mental institution. If an angry generation of pouty, sullen kids are making jokes about their mothers today, it's all because of mothers like heroine Hannah O'Connell. She is just plain crazy.

Never mind the insulting premise of this story that a woman's raison d'etre is centered around her womb and her ability to procreate. Hannah is so whacked and bent that an extended stay at a mental institution would do her good. Hannah - after a perfunctory "she is so strong, or so Ms Cates tells me" opening scene - spends all her time weeping, weeping, and weeping over her womb and kiddies and her "lost daughter" (Becca has fled to college) and kiddies' secret guardian angels and everything puke-inducing in this overwrought story that I want to get drunk and forget I've ever read this book.

Hannah has a daughter already - Becca - but after a surgery that has her womb removed, this fortysomething mother is moaning and weeping because oh, she will never have any children now, eek eek eek. I roll up my eyes at this point and wish she'll just start banging her head against the wall until her skull cracks. At least that'll be macabre comedy gold. Can you imagine? Hannah going on and on in a litany of "Want baby! Waah! Want baby! Waah!" as she keeps smashing her blood-soaked forehead against the sink? Comedy gold, I tell you. Yes, I'm sick. How did you guess?

Her husband Sam is concerned. He hasn't been boinking his wife way before the Surgery That Destroyed Hannah's Life, and he has no idea that the lack of contact between his penis and Hannah's child-bearing-no-more cabbage patch is making Hannah even more depressed. After all, Hannah is a woman who, when Becca was born, will remain vigilant 24/7 over lil' Becca's sickbed side. That I can understand, but I guess that experience must have also loosened all the screws in Hannah's brain because now, Hannah is weeping and practically slipping into catatonia because (a) she discovered previously that Becca had left behind the teddy bear Hannah bought her when Becca was a kid, (b) Hannah, panicking, mailed the teddy bear to Becca, and (c) Becca wrote back saying that mom, don't be silly, but she's too old to be playing with bears, y'know. For Hannah, this is the end. Her life is over, and now, without an uterus where she will plant Sam's precious seeds and harvest the plants, or something, she is Over. She has No More Life. Life is Dark and Meaningless. Oh, She Is So Useless, Ugh Ugh Eek Eek Eek....

At this point, I am shaking my head and reaching for that ever handy Tiger Balm rub for that headache that is starting to pound in my head.

Did I say that this is just at page 60?

Then Hannah finds a baby named Ellie in her laundry basket, and oh, her life can begin again! Baby! Baby! Baby, baby, baby, ooh, babybabybaby coochiecoocoo woowoo babybabybaby... uueeerrrggghh. Sorry, I can't help retching, please excuse me there. Sam is concerned - so am I, Sam, do you want me to recommend a few good homes for your wife? - but this is a romance novel, you know how it is. When your marriage is falling apart, the panacea is a baby, yes. Never mind your quarrels and disagreements, bickering over who will shut that whiny creature up at 3 am in the morning or who will keep changing that Crap Machine's diapers will surely make you two rediscover your inner love again, oh yeah. That's love.

Excuse me, I want to throw up again.

But that doesn't stop Hannah's tears. She is at it all the time, because no, Baby Ellie isn't enough, now Psycho Mum has to weep because her old boyfriend Tony, who is actually Becca's Secret Daddy - oh come on, you expect a woman like Hannah to take the Pill? - is back and the cat is gonna be out of the bag... meow! Oops. Can Sam and Hannah patch up, or will Hannah turn to Too Good To Be True Tony for solace and comfort? Who're Ellie's parents anyway? Will Becca ever want to come back to Psycho Mum? Will Psycho Mum rip out her best friend's fertile uterus in a fit of madness?

I made that last one up. A pity, because Hannah is crazy, and her going on a psycho uterus-ripping serial murder spree will have turned this story into a more readable, if horrific, story. As it is, with its overwrought, over-the-top sentimentalism and a heroine who is just outright deranged, The Mother's Day Garden is a depressing read. I'm depressed that Hannah just can't seem to get a hobby. She should get a hobby. Make a website to rip apart stupid books like The Mother's Day Garden. But what does Hannah do? Weep, weep, weep like a LSD junkie on her way to a triple overdose.

Only in the last few chapters does Hannah finally start to act like a human being for once. But by then, it's too late. I'm lucky my posture isn't stuck in a permanently cringing position.

The Mother's Day Garden is overwrought and badly written enough to convert an entire pro-life battalion into overzealous pro-choicers. You've been warned, people.

Rating: 33


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