The Best and Worst Moms from Literature


In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to hand out some awards to the best and worst mothers from some of my favorite books. You know these moms the minute you see them. The best ones are caring, loving, and supportive. The worst ones make some wacky decisions or are just downright mean. Either way, these fictional moms give us real-life moms inspiration to be more like them, or comfort knowing at least we aren’t as bad as they are. 

The Best of the Best Moms

Ma – Room by Emma Donoghue

best and worst moms

Trapped in an eleven-by-eleven foot space for seven years, Ma has created a home for herself and her son, Jack. She is everything Jack knows and from his perspective, she’s the best mom in the whole world. Everything she does is to make sure Jack stays happy and safe. The world she creates for him inside the tiny room would make any mother proud, and perhaps a bit jealous of her creativity. 

Elsa Wolcott – The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

best and worst moms

Elsa is tough as nails. Living through the Dust Bowl? No problem. Raising two kids and helping out on the family farm? Piece of cake. Elsa continuously bends over backwards to ensure her kids have everything they need. Even if that means she needs to go without. Her decision making always focuses on her children as she pushes her pride to the side again and again. 

Madeline Hill – The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

best and worst moms

Madeline knows her son is special regardless of his red eyes. She fights for him to have equal opportunities and the best education available. She stands up to those who think he is possessed by the devil. Strong in her faith, she believes Sam is destined for greatness, and tells him so every day of his life. Her positive attitude and genuine compassion are admirable. 

Valerie Aston-Holt – A Good Neighborhood by Therese Ann Fowler

best and worst moms

A strong single mother to Xavier, Valerie is proud of her work and her son. She’s tough with a tender side. She’s always there when Xavier needs her the most. Her friendly demeanor makes her incredibly likable, but you don’t want to mess with her business side. She is a ferocious mama bear when needed, and she’s not afraid to show some teeth.

Ellen Parr – We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

best and worst moms

During World War II in London, Ellen finds a little girl asleep in the back of a bus, all alone. She takes the little girl, Pamela, home and cares for her as if she was her own. Even though Ellen always believed she did not want children, she is a natural mother for Pamela. Her bond with the little girl is beautiful, and Ellen will go any length to protect her from harm.

The Worst of the Worst Moms

Nina Denny – The Safe Place by Anna Downes

best and worst moms

Nina carries secrets with her that are incredibly unsettling. She treats her daughter as if she’s made of glass. Aurelia isn’t allowed outside, she has a specified amount of play time to ensure she doesn’t get over tired. Nina says it’s all because of a medical condition Aurelia had when she was a baby, but the lengths she goes to protect this child from harm are questionable and crazy.

Cloud – Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

best and worst moms

You can’t really narrow down the bad with Cloud. Leaving her daughter, Tully, in a crowd at an anti-war protest. Getting arrested and leaving her teenage daughter to fend for herself. Endless amounts of drug addiction. It’s no wonder Tully would rather be with anyone else than her mom. Cloud’s struggles do make you feel badly for her, and for Tully. 

Becky Gerard – Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer

best and worst moms

From the outside, Becky appears to be a concerned and devoted mom. Her daughter, Meghan, has been in and out of hospitals for years and Becky just wants some answers. Until doctors think Becky might be the reason for all of Meghan’s hospital stays. As they suspect Munchausen syndrome by proxy, Becky’s motives become concerning and appear they may not be out of love after all. 

Mummy – Eleanor Oliphiant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

best and worst moms

Eleanor speaks with her Mummy once a week and every time it leaves her feeling worse than the last. Mummy is cruel and belittling towards Eleanor, squishing her dreams from the onset every time. She convinces Eleanor she’s not worthy of love, friendship, or anything decent in life. It’s a good thing the reader never meets Mummy in person. It would only give us more reasons to despise her. 

Mrs. Wormwood – Matilda by Roald Dahl

best and worst moms

This one is a scar on your childhood memories. A mother so blind to the needs of her daughter. A woman so caught up in her own vanity that oftentimes Matilda is completely ignored. Who leaves a five year old unattended at home to go play Bingo?! Thank goodness for Matilda’s brilliance and independence!

Do you want to surprise mom this weekend with one of these books showcasing the best and worst moms from literature? Pick up some fun reads at one of our favorite local bookstores! For more fun with Katie, follow our Bookstagram, Detroit Mom on the Same Page.


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