Melie feels like she has two mothers. Rosy Mother is sweet, loving, vivacious, and likes to bake cookies. Dark Mother is taunting, angry, impatient, and likes to dig her talons into Melie’s skin. Naturally Melie prefers Rosy Mother and would do anything to get her to stay, including trying to be as good as possible, performing strange rituals, and playing sick.
The slim volume chronicles Melie’s gradual descent from a normal 9 year old into a 14 year old suffering from deep depression and a serious obsessive compulsive disorder, both stemming from the emotional abuse she receives from her mother (who seems to have psychological problems of her own). The relationship between Melie and her mother is obviously toxic and both would benefit from therapy, but no one seems to notice or take Melie seriously.
This is a fascinating, almost trance-like look into the mind of someone suffering from mental illness, but it’s very one-sided and stacks the sympathy deck overwhelmingly in Melie’s favor. I would have liked to have seen the mother’s problems addressed as well to understand why she had such a split personality.
Like a Thorn was published in France in 2002, and was released in English translation this year in June.