On Glen Hirshberg’s Motherless Child by Victoria Waddle

Glen Hirshberg is a Shirley Jackson Award winner as well as a three-time International Horror Guild Award winner. Motherless Child makes clear why he has been thus honored.

I might have passed up this October must-read except that I was familiar with the author as a short story writer. And I might have missed those stories except that I often seek writers who are connected to the Inland Empire in some way. Previously, Hirshberg was a professor of fiction at Cal State San Bernardino and helped to launch the MFA program there.

It’s not often that readers have the joy of finding genre fiction of literary quality. Add to that a vampire who uses his Twitter base to hunt his prey and this tight piece of writing (it’s well under 300 pages) is a great read for any horror fan, teens included.

Bad girl Natalie doesn’t immediately realize that her wild night with pop singer The Whistler and best friend Sophie has done her damage forever. That’s really forever rather than a lifetime; she has been turned into a vampire. The Whistler hopes to make Natalie his eternal companion. As he sees it, she is his Destiny. He turns Sophie just to give Natalie someone to hang with while she figures out what has happened to them both, while they finish their transformation.

When Natalie does realize what has happened to her and Sophie, both women give their babies to Natalie’s mother with instructions to take off and never let the women know where she has gone with the children. The ensuing loneliness and desire would be enough to keep the reader charmed, but when ‘Mother’–the woman who turned The Whistler–figures out that her eternal companion hopes to forsake her for another, she is having none of it. Mother is amoral, cunning, willful, and violent. In the midst of all the grief and longing, we are thrust into spine-tingling episodes and suspenseful cat and mouse chases.

Not your typical vampire book, Motherless Child is about many things, and most surprisingly–if you allow the title to color your guesses about the nature of the book–it is a book about the ferocity of mother love, its limitless nature.

Through well-drawn characters and continual suspense, Hirshberg pulls the reader in quickly and never lets go. With the story very nearly concluded, he manages a final plot twist that both shocks the reader and leaves the reader deeply satisfied.

A sequel, Good Girls, is coming in February 2016. I’ll leave the light on.