You’ll Like My Mother
Naomi A. Hintze | Fawcett Books | 1969 | 159 pages
After her husband Matthew’s death in Vietnam, pregnant young widow Francesca Kinsolving travels deep into the Ohio wilderness to meet her mother-in-law. Deeply beloved by Matthew, Mrs. Kinsolving remains something of a mysterious figure to Francesca, having never responded to any of Francesa’s letters. Estranged from her own father and stepmother, Francesa desires some sense of closure with the only family left behind by her late husband, before she puts her baby up for adoption.
But the meeting does not transpire as Francesca had imagined. Her mother-in-law bristles with a barely concealed hostility, and Francesca discovers an unexpected resident living in the house—Kathleen, Matthew’s developmentally disabled sister. Mrs. Kinsolving explains that Kathleen had been institutionalized for most of her life, and that Matthew never even knew she existed. In a malicious tone seemingly aimed at Francesca’s unborn child, Mrs. Kinsolving informs Francesca that defective genes run in the family, and even a normal birth could potentially hide monstrous deformities.
Unable to leave the Kinsolving estate before the arrival of a major storm, and corresponding flood, cuts off the only route back to town, Francesca finds herself trapped in the house, eventually being confined to her room. She begins to fear for her safety, unsure of the motivations of her increasingly erratic mother-in-law, and desperately seeks a means of escape before the imminent birth of her baby.
Francesca’s periodic escapes from her room, as she searches the house for a possible way out, drive most of the tension in what is essentially a “locked-door” thriller. She must also piece together the clues regarding the actions of her strange captor, a mother seemingly cherished by her late husband, but exhibiting a cruel disposition. Showing some initiative to control the events to which she is subjected, Francesca suffers a similar fate to other genre heroines—ultimately relying on outside intervention for help. This intervention naturally arrives in the form of an attractive young man, who explains all the events leading up to the conclusion in a mostly rote epilogue.
Although an attempted explanation occurs within the text, You’ll Like My Mother still begs the eternal question, “Why didn’t you call first?”