Motherhood and Trauma in Ghost Species

by Hannah Reth

In the novel Ghost Species, Kate has to deal with what it means to be a parent, a task that can pose rather difficult considering her parental relationships that are either strained or nonexistent. The novel outlines Kate’s relationship with her mother through flashbacks which suggest that a kind of role reversal occurred. Kate taking care of her mother shows the level of maturity she had to take on when she was just a child. Her hesitation to have children of her own proves that she is reluctant to make the same mistakes and potentially become a version of her mother. Especially confronted with her past in the weeks and months following her abduction of Eve, Kate has to make ends meet and finds herself in the same near-impoverished circumstances she grew up in.

However, Kate attempts to be a better mother to “her” daughter. She is involved in Eve’s upbringing and education once they return to the facility; she even panics when Eve falls sick. What differentiates her from her mother, even more, is that she involves Eve in her own upbringing. She is honest about who Eve was and under what circumstances she was conceived, fully aware that it will affect Eve’s psyche. Growing up Kate had to accept things as they were presented to her. In Eve’s case, Kate offers her the opportunity to help shape her life along the way.

It also seems that she is rather reluctant to let Eve go. Consider the fact that she rarely approves of the measures that are to be taken to aid Eve in her growth. In the facility, Eve is supposed to get some form of psychological therapy and Kate is not really happy with the idea. When a nanny is employed by the facility, Kate is immediately worried that she could have too much influence on Eve. The only person connected to the facility she is actually willing to have near Eve when it is not absolutely necessary is Jay. She even goes as far as leaving her with him, when she must organize and attend her mother’s funeral.

Her not taking Eve to the funeral also shows that Kate does not want Eve to be involved in her past. She is willing to leave her behind, rather than take her to the place that makes her feel not only deeply uncomfortable but also reminds her of her maternal issues and trauma. While on the mainland she also tries to avoid getting too involved with her mother’s life. She does what she has to do when it comes to the funeral and pays for what seems to be the bare minimum. However, this shows that Kate feels a sense of responsibility for her family.

All those instances show us that Kate is a lot more affected by her mother’s parenting than is first suggested when Eve was not yet born, and that the trauma is a lot greater than it first seemed.