“There is only one thing in this world shittier than biting it from cancer when you’re sixteen, and that’s having a kid who bites it from cancer.”
My mom never finished Lolita. She started it when I was 12-years-old, the same age as Lolita herself, and found it too upsetting. She revealed this when I was in the throes of my Nabokov obsession (college) and I stared at her in disbelief. How can you read only one half of a masterpiece? Now, 20 years later and 8 months into motherhood, I get it. I too have started reading through the mama lens.
I don’t usually cry while reading. But when I read The Fault in Our Stars, I cried not only for Hazel and Gus, two teenagers coping with cancer, but also for their parents. Mrs. Lancaster, Hazel’s indomitable mother, remains remarkably steady throughout the story. But she is also human. Wailing, “I’m not going to be a mom anymore!” as she tells Hazel it’s okay to let go (of life), Mrs. Lancaster’s perkiness so tellingly masks deeper, scarier emotions.
Has your reading style evolved since you became a mom? Below are a couple of questions to jumpstart the first installment of The Ma Books book club. Feel free to comment anytime and come back in September when we’ll be discussing Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, a fun glimpse of motherhood in the 1950s.
Why is Mrs. Lancaster so set on celebrating every little thing? Is she over-celebratory or is it justified?
How do Hazel’s mom and Augustus’s mom react differently to their children’s illnesses? How do they react similarly?
Why does Mrs. Lancaster hide from Hazel that she’s been taking classes?
Do you think of Mrs. Lancaster as a helicopter parent?
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