Relationships, and especially marriage, take their toll on the psyche. Phillip Fracassi’s novellete, Mother, examines the gradual breakdown of a marriage from the perspective of a rather unlikable, but very realistic, protagonist: Howard. The ride through terror is excellently foreshadowed from the first line: “I know Julie loved me once.” From there, we are completely in Fracassi’s crafty hands.
Nobody wants to be an active participant in the dissolution of a relationship, at least, we can accept that people who invest time in the relationships genuinely want them to endure. Howard, by most standards, is an exceptionally repulsive man, as we can identify how his personality directly unwinds Julie’s. We are helpless to save Julie from herself and from Howard; we want redemptive love between these characters and a sort of compromise, but the only compromise is that both parties are rather helpless against their own psychological issues. Readers can easily determine how Julie might better help herself and the marriage, but Fracassi is able to depict the powerlessness that freezes abusive relationships, and the true horror of helplessness.
In the Gothic tradition, the metaphor is stretched from the delicate handling of psychosis damage. Even as Julie attempts to seek assistance from the arcane, we are offered the parallelism of the original supernatural nature of love’s invisible power, and the power of invisible horror, (SPOILER) which translates itself into the physical monstrosity.
An intelligent read that is never pretentious in its approach by being accessible and allowing the audience to infer the horror rather than have it shoved down their throats. Fracassi knows how to involve the reader in the unravelling, and, as a married man with children, the connections I can make to my revulsion for Howard kept me turning the pages because I wanted both characters to heal. I felt as if I witnessed two friends meet and then fall apart, and neither of them would listen to what I had to say. Howard and Julie were both helpless against themselves.
(Four stars because I hated Howard like I have hated no living person I have known, otherwise, easily a five star book. The fact that I hated Howard so much is a testament to Fracassi’s skill, because Howard’s actions were believable).