Cover the Butter by Carrie Kabak begins with a prologue set in 1995, in which Kate finds her home disaster area after her son decides to have a party while she and her husband, Rodney, are out of town. Kate is upset about the mess, her husband doesn't seem to care at all, and she's ready to have a nervous breakdown.
As the book heads into chapter one, it is now 1965 and Kate is 14 years old. She's arguing with her mother, Biddy, about her bra size, whether to wear a girdle, and how Kate is wearing her hair. Her mother endlessly criticizes Kate, and it doesn't get any better. This scene at first comes across as almost comical, but as the story develops, the reader will get the true picture of what life for Kate is really like. This is the story of Kate Cadogon and how she tries all her life to please her mother, a woman who doesn't seem to have a loving bone in her body.
Some of the things Biddy does to Kate are abusive, emotionally as well as physically. As the abuse continues, the reader gets a real sense of Kate’s anguish and unhappiness in this family where there is not much love or affection shown between parents or toward young Kate. Kate tries to fight it and argues often with her mother, but in the end she ends up trying to find a way to please her mother and to make amends. The bottom line is that Kate wants her mother to love her - and no matter how abusive her mother is to her, Kate at the end will do what her mother says.
Kate narrates the story, and the reader is there firsthand to feel the misery, embarrassment and frustration as she tries to be like any other normal girl her age. But her mother always finds a way to ruin things, making Kate feel like she's too slutty, too dumb, or just plain impossible. Being an only child doesn't help; she has really no one to turn to.
She does have her grandmother Mamgu, her father's mother, who Kate loves very much. She's the mother Kate wishes she had. And there is Griff, Mamgu's husband, whom Kate loves equally. He gives her wise words of advice on occasion, which later will haunt her as she wonders how these words of wisdom can apply to her life. On her rare trips to visit them, she finds what true happiness is. She finds no love in her own home, and when she finally finds a way to move out of her parents’ home to marry Rodney, she thinks it's a dream come true. She thinks she is finally rid of her parents’ impossible demands.
Lovers of women's fiction will enjoy Cover the Butter. This is a fast read, and while the decades breeze along through the book, the novel covers Kate's life completely, although the ending is too abrupt. Things are resolved a bit too fast. Some readers may find themselves frustrated over Kate’s situation with her mother and will feel anger and rage against this woman who will not let Kate grow up or leave her alone.
All in all, readers will enjoy getting to know Kate Cadogan and will cheer her on as she tries her best to find the happiness that seems to elude her for a very long time.