Mother Night

Mother Night

By Kurt Vonnegut

If you are planning to read Slaughterhouse Five, this is the perfect second course in your Vonnegut feast.

For one, if you hated Slaughterhouse Five, this is a great book to counteract that. I’ve heard numerous people say that they just can’t get into Vonnegut’s sci-fi plot elements and that they just aren’t fans of that type of novel. Mother Night is also a WWII story, but there is nothing out-of-this-world about it.

If you loved Slaughterhouse Five, then this is also the book for you because, as you will come to find in your further adventures with Vonnegut, he has a talent for interweaving characters in brilliant and unexpected ways. In SH5, Howard J. Campbell is a despicable American –turned- Nazi propagandist who tries to recruit the POWs for the Nazi cause. In the book, he is a villain, a weak swine. In Mother Night, Campbell reveals himself to be something completely different.

Mother Night is Campbell’s story of how he was recruited by the CIA to operate as an undercover spy during WWII. His story becomes relatable, compelling, and far more complex than SH5 would have had readers believing. You are never aware of whether or not this CIA recruitment actually happened or if this is simply a war criminal’s justification for his crimes. Campbell, decades after the war, still feels enormous guilt for his role in the Nazi party and constantly imagines his day of reckoning.

Unlike SH5, Mother Night is a very grounded and realistic story far more about inner demons and wrestling with personal-conflicts than anything alien. This story has you questioning the issues of guilt, violence, patriotism, perspective, betrayal, and justice.

Mother Night will have you considering the idea that the villain is the hero of his own story and who you believe to actually be that villain.

I cannot imagine anyone not finding this book relatable, entertaining, and thought-provoking- no matter their position on Vonnegut’s general style or angle.

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