What Kind of Mother

A Novel

About the Book

A New York Times Book Review Best Horror of 2023 selection.

Packed with profoundly unsettling scenes that’ll slither under your skin and stay there long after you turn the last page.—Gabino Iglesias, author of The Devil Takes You Home

After striking out on her own as a teen mom, Madi Price is forced to return to her hometown of Brandywine, Virginia, with her seventeen-year-old daughter. With nothing to her name, she scrapes together a living as a palm reader at the local farmers market.

It’s there that she connects with old high school flame Henry McCabe, now a reclusive local fisherman whose infant son, Skyler, went missing five years ago. Everyone in town is sure Skyler is dead, but when Madi reads Henry’s palm, she’s haunted by strange and disturbing visions that suggest otherwise. As she follows the thread of these visions, Madi discovers a terrifying nightmare waiting at the center of the labyrinth—and it’s coming for everyone she holds dear.

Combining supernatural horror with domestic suspense into a visceral exploration of parental grief, What Kind of Mother cements Clay McLeod Chapman’s reputation as a “star” (Vulture) and “the twenty-first century’s Richard Matheson” (Richard Chizmar, Chasing the Boogeyman.)


A New York Times Book Review Best Horror Book of 2023
A September 2023 Indie Next List Pick
One of Esquire’s Best Horror Books of 2023
One of USA Today‘s Best Books To Read This Spooky Season (2023)
One of Barnes & Noble’s Best Horror Books of 2023
A Den of Geek Best Book of 2023
One of Book Riot’s Best Horror Books Of 2023
One of CrimeReads’ Best Horror Books of 2023 

“Packed with profoundly unsettling scenes that’ll slither under your skin and stay there long after you turn the last page.”—Gabino Iglesias, New York Times Book Review

“Chapman (Ghost Eaters) is becoming a not-to-miss horror novelist. Suggest this one to a varied audience of fans who enjoy intense psychological tales like Paul Tremblay’s The Pallbearers Club, body horror like Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, and parental horror like Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth; don’t forget fans of the pulp classic “Clickers” series, originated by J.F. Gonzalez.”—Library Journal

“Perfectly paced […] Recommend to readers who enjoyed Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth (2018), Victor LaValle’s The Changeling (2017), or Laurel Hightower’s Crossroads (2020).”—Booklist

“I’m making a point of not spoiling anything to do with the plot here, because that would be a crime, but I will say two things: What Kind of Mother contains the single most upsetting paragraph I’ve read this year, and I will never look at a crab the same way again”—Esquire

“A Southern Gothic masquerading as a crime thriller…this is intelligent literary horror great for chilly nights in.”—Den of Geek

“A story that’s as harrowing as it is sad and strange, What Kind of Mother is a superb addition to McLeod’s catalog and proof that he is quickly becoming one of the strongest voices in contemporary horror fiction.”—Locus Magazine

“Bristling with uneasy energy, What Kind of Mother seizes you by the throat and never lets go. An ink-black story about grief, courage, and what we’ll do for those we love.”—Catriona Ward, author of The Last House on Needless Street and Sundial

“There’s a moment in What Kind of Mother when a character worries that he’s telling the story all wrong. The opposite is true of Clay McLeod Chapman. His lyrical prose shimmers, moving us seamlessly from one wounded soul to another. A good old-fashioned salty summer scare about the beautiful, terrifying power of belief.”—Caroline Kepnes, New York Times best-selling author of the You series

What Kind of Mother mixes Southern Gothic, a missing child story, and body horror into an entertaining brew sure to inform your nightmares.”—Paul Tremblay, author of The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts

“A tremendous, heartbreaking work of dark fiction, where the horror seeps in quietly until you’re left drowning. You won’t forget about this tale anytime soon. A masterpiece.”—Ronald Malfi, best-selling author of Come with Me

“I’m not sure how Clay McLeod Chapman manages to be both tremendously tender and brilliantly hideous in What Kind of Mother, but he does—in this strange, poetic, and gut-wrenching portrait of parenthood.”—Erika T. Wurth, author of White Horse

“Another stunner . . . one of horror’s modern masters. Beautifully written, deftly plotted, and completely engrossing, What Kind of Mother will get under your skin and take your breath away and break your heart and chill you to the bone. A profound exploration of parental love and loss, of regret and sacrifice.”—Rachel Harrison, national best-selling author of Cackle and Such Sharp Teeth

What Kind of Mother is a deeply unsettling, oddly sweet book about what love can become.”—Sarah Gailey, best-selling author of Just Like Home

What Kind of Mother is both a breakneck story about running from your past and also a meditation on loss and guilt. Which is typical Chapman, a writer who always finds ways to marry our real-life fears with crescendos of pure unadulterated horror. His writing is intense, beautiful, disturbing, heartbreaking, and this book is no different. First it takes you by the hand, then it takes you by the wrist.”—Gus Moreno, author of This Thing Between Us

What Kind of Mother is a masterpiece—a beautiful, intimate work. Clay Chapman is the storyteller supreme, and I will follow him anywhere.”—Andy Davidson, author of The Hollow Kind

“Equal parts terrifying and beautiful. Chapman crafts a folk tale that slides under your skin and burrows its way into your heart. Visceral. Surprising. Stunning. Not to be missed.”—Erin E. Adams, author of Jackal

What Kind of Mother will make you pace the room, reconsider your own sanity, and question the stubborn instinct to nurture.”—Rachel Eve Moulton, author of The Insatiable Volt Sisters

Praise for Clay McLeod Chapman
“Chapman is a maestro at building grim suspense to the point of unimaginable consequences, proving genuine horror dwells in the world we live in today.”—Mystery and Suspense Magazine

“Chapman is the 21st century’s Richard Matheson. He’s that good.”—Richard Chizmar, New York Times best-selling author of Chasing the Boogeyman

About the Author

Clay McLeod Chapman

Clay McLeod Chapman is the creator of the storytelling session “The Pumpkin Pie Show” and the author of Rest Area, Nothing Untoward, and The Tribe trilogy. He is the co-author, with Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick, of the middle grade novel Wendell and Wild. In the world of comics, Chapman’s work includes Lazaretto, Iron Fist: Phantom Limb, and Edge of Spiderverse. He also writes for the screen, including The Boy (SXSW 2015), Henley (Sundance 2012), and Late Bloomer (Sundance 2005). You can find him at claymcleodchapman.com.

Product Details

  • Hardcover ISBN: 9781683693802
  • Paperback ISBN: 9781683694335
  • e-Book ISBN: 9781683693819
  • Page Count: 304
  • Release Date: September 12, 2023