Book #31

Bad Fruit by Ella King

17-year-old Lily is mama’s girl, mama’s doll.

Every evening she pours Mama a glass of perfectly spoilt orange juice. She arranges her teddy bears on the bed, just so. She puts on the matching pink clothes that Mama likes her to wear.

But Mama’s love flies so close to hate. And as her behaviour escalates, as she starts to unravel, so do the memories that Lily has kept locked away for so long.

She only wanted to be good, to piece Mama back together. But what if instead, Lily tears her apart?

This was marketed to me as a thriller, and after finishing I can’t think why. This is not a thriller; it’s a deep exploration of familial relationships, abuse, generational trauma, and cultural influences. Seeing this family’s structure, their hierarchies and functions, was nothing short of heartbreaking, and slowly learning the origins of the dynamic was equally difficult.

Lily is the only one in this family who can pacify her mother. She has two siblings and a father who are either incapable of the task, or who have simply given up. Her mother’s erratic mood swings, her almost unreachable demands, and her smooth manipulation are all keenly felt, and masterfully written. She’s terrifyingly unpredictable, and Lily seeks only to placate and feel love from her, bargaining with her, buying her gifts, vying for her affections through chores and consolatory words.

Both of Lily’s siblings have escaped the family home, and Lily is looking forward to doing the same when she goes to study at Oxford after the summer. She deserves her own life, away from her crushing responsibilities at home. But her mother seems to cling to her more and more, desperation raises its head, and Lily begins to discover things about her mother, and indeed her wider family, she had never previously considered.

A truly difficult read, but an important study of generational abuse and its horrific domino effect. Uncomfortable, tense, yet with a wildly engaging and persistent message of awareness.