The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy published in 2018.
“They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time. When the women go out for drinks at a hip neighborhood bar, they’re looking for a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed.”
This is both the best and the worst book for a mother to read.
The May Mother’s are a group of women who gave birth to their children in the same month of May. They meet to discuss their new daunting roles of mothers and exchange advice on their newborns. The regular members are Francie, Nell, Colette, Token (given this nickname because he’s the “token male” of the group) and finally, the mysterious and beautiful Winnie Ross. Yet when the group convinces Winnie to go against her better judgement and join them for a night of drinks, her son Midas is taken from his crib. The police are proving to be incompetent in solving this case, and soon the whole country has an opinion about the infant abduction. Was it an act of terrorism? Revenge from an old stalker of Winnie’s? Or maybe Winnie has something to do with this herself? Even besides the detail of who did this, how irresponsible was it of this new mother to leave her newborn at home to go drinking? As the press preoccupies themselves by pointing fingers and placing blame, the police stray further away from finding Midas, so one of the May Mother’s stars to take things into her own hands. Secrets are revealed, people are killed, and tensions are high on the search for baby Midas.
The characterization was definitely not ideal for me. It took a while for all the main characters to gain a sense of individuality and a strong personality. I kept getting all of their jobs, husbands and kids confused. Since they’re all in similar situations (new, nervous mothers), it’s difficult to distinguish between Francie, Nell and Colette. Eventually, I did get them sorted out, but I attribute that mainly to time. If you read about any character for long enough, you’re bound to remember certain things about them, even if they aren’t particularly memorable.
This is labelled as a thriller, but I didn’t really find it that thrilling for the majority of the novel. I felt as if it sort of plateaued for most of it, just an endless search for Midas with very few major twists and turns or any sort of heavy action scenes. I kept waiting for some minor peaks of action to spice up the story, yet the only bit of noteworthy action was the final reveal at the end. Then it was approximately forty pages of intense drama with an abrupt happyish ending.
Speaking of the big twist, I wasn’t too impressed by it. Was I surprised by the reveal of what happened to baby Midas? Somewhat. Was I absolutely blown away by it? Not really. Actually, when I was telling my dad about the general plot of the novel, he guessed part of the ending so you can interpret that any way you’d like. My exact thoughts while taking in the ending was, “Oh, that’s it?” Also, it left some unanswered questions, which is quite annoying, especially in a thriller/mystery novel that dedicates about two hundred pages to creating questions that need answers.
I will say it did have an interesting commentary on modern motherhood that was intriguing to read, even as someone who isn’t a mother. The external pressure to be the perfect mother (hence the title) is presented with a contemporary flair with hints of traditional doubt. It ranges from a parenting website sending daily “mommy advice” of how the perfect baby should be acting, to the underlying disdain of using formula milk versus breast milk. Reading this book is just a constant reminder that trying to keep a little human alive is hard enough without a world of strangers telling you that you’re doing it wrong, so we should appreciate the work that mother’s do.
I heard some people describe this book as “disturbing”, but to me, that’s a bit of an ambitious adjective for The Perfect Mother. Besides the whole plot point of a newborn being kidnapped, there are very few scenes that I would describe as disturbing. Maybe it’s because I’m adventurous when it comes to potentially unsettling books (check out my review for Girls Burn Brighter—that one was a doozy), but this definitely was not the most disturbing book I’ve ever read, if anything I found it rather tame.
Molloy has achieved writing a very average book. All the characters, plot and writing style are just fine to say the most. If you’re looking for a novel to introduce yourself to the thriller genre that has little to arguably no disturbing scenes, this would be a good one to check out. Yet if you have a strong stomach and are searching for something with a bit more bang for your buck, it might be worth skipping this one.