Bury What We Cannot Take: Book Review

Bury What We Cannot Take by Kirstin Chen published in 2018.

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“The day nine-year-old San San and her twelve-year-old brother, Ah Liam, discover their grandmother taking a hammer to a framed portrait of Chairman Mao is the day that forever changes their lives. To prove his loyalty to the Party, Ah Liam reports his grandmother to the authorities. But his belief in doing the right thing sets in motion a terrible chain of events. Now they must flee their home on Drum Wave Islet, which sits just a few hundred meters across the channel from mainland China. But when their mother goes to procure visas for safe passage to Hong Kong, the government will only issue them on the condition that she leave behind one of her children as proof of the family’s intention to return.”

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Even though exam season is right around the corner, I’m still staying up until 1 in the morning reading my books.

Bury What We Cannot Take takes place in 1950’s Communist China, following the mother Seok Koon, her two children Ah Liam & San San, and mother-in-law Bee Kim live in Drum Wave Islet, a small island north of Hong Kong. In an emotional and desperate state, Bee Kim takes a hammer to a framed portrait of Chairman Mao, a very serious offence to the Party. Her grandchildren witness this, and Ah Liam, brainwashed to follow the communist leaders, believes the right thing to do is report her. This ruins Seok Koon’s plan to move her family to Hong Kong and be reunited with her husband, since even with extravagant bribes they are only granted 3 exit permits, and she is forced to leave one of her children behind. She chooses to leave San San, unknowing to the fact that it is Ah Liam’s fault they are in this situation. Separated both by distance and ideals, Seok Koon becomes desperate to be reunited with her daughter, while nine-year-old San San attempts to survive on her own while also trying to find a way to Hong Kong.

Chen jumps right into the story wasting no time with mindless details and pointless imagery and immediately introducing the scene of San San and Ah Liam spying on their grandmother committing a crime against the Party. I don’t like it when novels dawdle about at the beginning, so this was well appreciated. I mean, I understand introductions are hard, but I don’t think it’s necessary to spend 20 pages describing a house or a random minor character. Another aspect on the forefront for me is its title, only of the very things that drew me towards this novel in the first place (that and the beautiful cover art). Bury What We Cannot Take has an air of adventure, mystery and danger, causing the reader to wonder who or what they’re running from. Although after reading the story, since we find out that it’s not a matter of what they left behind, but rather who.

As I mentioned earlier, Ah Liam was the one who turned in his grandmother in order to stay loyal to the Party. This is not revealed until they are in Hong Kong when Ah Liam announces it proudly. They are (obviously) angry at him, but this anger is very brief. It’s never really brought up again, and Bee Kim and Seok Koon even still refer fondly to Ah Liam later in the story. I guess this could be to show their unconditional love towards their family, but c’mon, your own grandson ratted you out to communist leaders and basically forced them to abandon little San San. If it were me, even if it were my son/grandson, I think I’d remain quite bitter towards him. Also, the narrative of the novel is quite equally disrupted in the beginning, yet close to the end it focuses more on San San, so we get even less about Ah Liam.

You may also be wondering what’s going on with Seok Koon’s husband in Hong Kong, Ah Zhai, and the reason for this is because he doesn’t really warrant mentioning. They meet up with him, and Seok Koon discovers he has a mistress that he has fallen in love with. Besides this bit of juicy information, there’s really nothing else going on with him; he’s pretty one-dimensional in my eyes and wasn’t really worth more than a few sentences of description.

Based on the plot summary and the cover art, one would think there would be a considerable amount of time on some sort of ship, perhaps being smuggled on the way to Hong Kong. This idea is explored…kind of. Most of San San’s story takes place on a dock waiting for a cargo ship to arrive. When she finally finds a ship, this journey is completely skipped over. We suddenly go from her bribing the cooks to hid her in the storage room, and suddenly she’s arrived in Hong Kong, dishevelled and beaten down. We then get about a paragraph or so summary of her time on the ship and a few pages later, the book is done. Just like that. I would have loved to have followed San San as she stowed away on a cargo ship headed to Hong Kong (I mean, how exciting does that sound?). The book isn’t that long to begin with (286 pages) so it could have afforded another good 150 or so pages documenting San San’s journey. The actual ending, in general, is very abrupt and doesn’t really satisfy a lot of plot holes.

Overall, this book confused me. There are a lot of aspects of it I quite liked, like San San’s character and Chen’s writing style, but upon further thought, there are some technical parts that just don’t sit right with me. I don’t know much about the history of communist China, but it appeared to be accurate to what I do know. If you have the chance to pick up this book, feel free to enjoy some creative historical fiction. I have nothing against this book, it just didn’t wow me.

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Women Talking: Book Review

Women Talking by Miriam Toews published in 2018.

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“One evening, eight Mennonite women climb into a hay loft to conduct a secret meeting. For the past two years, each of these women, and more than a hundred other girls in their colony, has been repeatedly violated in the night by demons coming to punish them for their sins. Now that the women have learned they were in fact drugged and attacked by a group of men from their own community, they are determined to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm. While the men of the colony are off in the city, attempting to raise enough money to bail out the rapists and bring them home, these women—all illiterate, without any knowledge of the world outside their community and unable even to speak the language of the country they live in—have very little time to make a choice: Should they stay in the only world they’ve ever known or should they dare to escape?’

 

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This is a powerful book with an influential message to read at any time, but especially now in our political climate.

Woman Talking takes place over the span of two days in which August Epp, a man that has been expelled from his Mennonite community, comes back to take the minutes of the local woman during an important meeting. After several months of waking up sore and bruised, the women of the Molotschna colony discovered that several men in the community have been drugging and raping them during the night. A group of woman, specifically the two female family members of Greta Loewen and Agata Friesen, gather in secret to discuss their three options in regards to the men’s crimes: stay and fight back against the men, stay and do nothing, or flee the colony. They must decide quickly though because the men will be back in town in two days. One of the women, Ona, requires the help of August to document the minutes of their meeting because none of the women are literate. Throughout the meeting, ideas fly and loyalties are challenged in this short period of time when the most important decision of these women’s life is debated.

Before Toews even begins her narrative, she reveals that this book is very loosely based on a true event. The concept of a story inspiring an author so tremendously that she has creates an entire set of characters and plot in order to honour and share their story is so awe-inspiring, from both a creative and moral standpoint. Like I mentioned in the beginning, today’s political climate with the #MeToo movement, it is so important for there to be dialogue on this topic, at all times, but especially now. If you are not writing about this topic, you should definitely be reading about it in Women Talking.

The characters were strong, yet there were so many of them that it was hard to follow at times. Not to mention that they all had somewhat obscure names (Mariche, Mejal, Autje, Ona, Salome, Neitje) that didn’t help in remembering them. I know that these names are supposed to fit the Mennonite setting, but it made remembering multiple women’s names so much more difficult. I haven’t even brought up the intricate family ties between each woman, like keeping track of who is someone’s daughter/mother gets very confusing very fast. Granted, all the characters had very strong and distinct personalities, yet it still took a considerable amount of time to get them all sorted out in my head.

Another aspect that made things more confusing than necessary was the lack of quotation marks. If you’ve read in some of my past reviews (Tin Man, to be specific) you’ll know that I despise it when authors do not use quotation marks in their dialogue. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; quotation marks were invented for a reason, so can we all just please agree to use them whenever possible. It doesn’t make it trendy or unique when the quotation marks are dismissed, it just makes it annoying and confusing.  

Some parts of the story seem a bit too drawn out for my taste. I feel like there are some points that could have been conveyed through a sentence or so but were rather written in several paragraphs. Perhaps it was supposed to be a commentary on the conversational aspect of women, or maybe the author just wanted a higher word count. Either way, the writing itself was good but the overextension of it just didn’t sit right with me. On the flip side, there were some plot points, such as August’s unrequited love with Ona, that didn’t go as far as I would have liked it too.

This being said, I really liked the ending. Maybe not the direct plot of the ending, but the allegorical meaning of the ending (look at me, using big English major words like allegorical). The ending is a big statement on the relationship between men and woman, and more importantly, the dependency link between the sexes. In a patriarchal society such as Molotschna (and perhaps even modern America) there is often a power imbalance and it is thought that the women depend on the men to live their lives, yet in the end, August’s life was essentially and indirectly saved by these women, which is a beautiful sentiment to end this story with.

Women Talking is a creative approach to address the scary world that all women live in (and when I say all, I mean all―not just privileged white women living in the city). It speaks of toxic masculinity that is damaging both of women and young men. I think Toews elegantly captured the struggle all women have navigating a cruel world while also trying to stay true to their personal morals.

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A Little Life: Book Review

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara published in 2015.

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“A Little Life follows four college classmates—broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition—as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. While their relationships, which are tinged by addiction, success, and pride, deepen over the decades, the men are held together by their devotion to the brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a man scarred by an unspeakable childhood trauma. A hymn to brotherly bonds and a masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves.”

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When I asked the store clerk at Lunenburg Bound Books in Nova Scotia for her recommendation, she told me that A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara would change my life. Consider my life changed.

Malcolm, JB, Willem, and Jude have known each other since freshman year of college, and this novel follows their friendship as they live in New York City. Despite their incredibly varying personalities, they find themselves sticking together through thick and thin. Malcolm is the son of a wealthy family and has a passion for architecture. JB is a shining example of a struggling artist, finding inspirations for his painting within his friendships. Willem is an aspiring actor, doing what most aspiring actor do in New York; working as a waiter. Finally there is Jude, a bashful lawyer who carries the legacy of an incredibly traumatic childhood. The story centres around Willem and Jude’s (mainly Jude) escalating relationship from their college years all the way to their fifties.

Let’s start this the way I usually do: talking about the characters. I fell in love with the majority of the characters, even beyond the main four. They were written to be very distinguishable and noteworthy, and even further the relationships that were formed between all of them were enviable, especially Willem and Jude’s. (Notice how I didn’t say perfect?) Yanagihara managed to flawless capture the comfortable, humdrum relationship that one can only achieve after decades of sacrifices and compassion.

The highs of this book are heart fluttering, and the lows of this book (and when I say lows, I mean depths of hell low) are heartbreaking, yet my favourite is how grounding the mediocrity. The author makes a point of at least mentioning the most mundane aspects of life and relationships, and yet she doesn’t spend precious word count boring the reader. Romance has never been my genre, and even in books that don’t fit in that category, like this one, I tend to gloss over any sort of romance within its pages. But Yanagihara manages to write about something stronger and less tangible than love. She’s grasped at a concept so far out of the box that there isn’t a word in the English language that I can think of to properly describe it. It’s something that’s experienced rather than explained.  

As I mentioned earlier, the lows in this book were devastating. Most of them revolve around Jude and his horrific childhood, as well as his coping (or rather lack of coping) he does as an adult. I found myself looking at Yanagihara as some sort of cruel God overlooking the world she’s created, and thought to myself, “My god, the poor man has suffered enough, have mercy.” Each new disturbing event that Jude had to experience was like a stab to my heart, and I felt the need to physically react (the number of times I paced the room in frustration and heartache are embarrassing).

If I was forced to criticize this novel, the only thing I could say is it may benefit from some mild editing, and I say that for a specific reason. The sheer length of this book (a whopping 814 pages) may be slightly intimidating for a reader. To be perfectly honest, it almost scared me away from the book. By cutting down some of the longer internal monologues and maybe eliminating the intensely graphic self-harm scenes, the page count could be cut significantly without losing the brilliance of the main story.

Another thing I usually discuss in my reviews is the ending, and without spoiling too much, I can say I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. Yanagihara somehow managed to take a stereotypically upsetting ending and made it happy. Somber yet content, because Jude finally got what he wanted in life.

I would recommend this book to everyone who can get their hands on it, yet also warn them to proceed with caution since it covers some jaw-droppingly horrendous topics. It’s well balanced out by the joys one might find in everyday life, yet the very description of someone hurting themselves could make someone pretty queasy. I was somewhat doubtful when the store clerk told me this book would change my life, but I’m delighted to be proven wrong. I’ll never forget Jude and Willem as I navigate my life; Jude when my mind is trying to convince me that I don’t belong, and Willem whenever someone I love reels me back into reality.

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Hello! I’m constantly trying to tweak the reviews that I post here so they can be more enjoyable for everyone to read, and if you haven’t noticed yet, I’ve added but another new feature to my book reviews! I will now be including a list of “sensitive subjects” before I dive into my thoughts on the book. They’re similar to a trigger warning, yet I’m not calling them triggers for a reason.

If you don’t know what a trigger is, let me explain. A trigger is any sort of sensation (sight, sound, smell, even taste) that can vividly remind a person of a traumatic event they experienced. Common examples of this are people who have experienced severe sexual assault or physical violence. Triggers should be taken seriously, as they can often lead to violence flashbacks and incredibly negative emotions. All of the warnings I include before the review begins are not that dire; most of them are actually rather just, as it’s included in the title, “sensitive subjects.” These are topics that have the possibility to make anyone uncomfortable, or at the very least, are controversial conversation in our society.

Now comes the part where you come in. If you happen to have read a book that I’m reviewing and notice some discrepancies in my list of “sensitive subjects” (either I’ve missed one or included one that you don’t agree with), do not hesitate to message me here, or comment on the post itself. Also, if you’re curious as to how extensively a specific topic is written about in the book, or if there’s just one particular scene they need to stay away from, again, don’t hesitate to contact me for more information.

Some might consider this catering to the new age of sensitive snowflakes in our politically correct day in age. But I think to fully enjoy a book, you need to be completely comfortable immersing yourself within its plot, and it’s hard to do that if you’re straddled by the uncertainty of possible triggers/sensitive topics. Better safe than sorry when investing your time into a book!

The Book of Essie: Book Review

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir published in 2018.

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“Esther Ann Hicks—Essie—is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She’s grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family’s fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie’s mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show’s producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia’s? Or do they try to arrange a marriage—and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media—through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell—Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?”

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The Book of Essie is like a crossover between the Kardashian’s and Little House on the Prairie, and I loved every second of it.

Six for Hicks is a reality show which follows the die-hard religious lifestyle of the Hicks family. All is well in paradise until Essie, the youngest of the many children, gets pregnant. Her overbearing mother and the producers of the show weigh their options to avoid a media disaster: should she put the baby up for adoption? Try and pass it as her mothers’ child? Abortion? Marry Essie off before the kid is born? The last option is deemed the best, so they begin to search for a suitable husband for seventeen-year-old Essie. Roarke Richards is chosen and given a significant amount of money for going along with the very publicized sham wedding. The book is written in the altering perspectives of Essie, Roarke and Liberty, who is a struggling reporter with a dark history of her own. As the story unfolds we learn that all three of our main characters have secrets that they’re not willing to bring to the light just yet. Also, the most pressing question for us readers is: how did Essie get pregnant?

This was such a quick and easy read, I finished it faster than most books I’ve read. It was fast-paced yet I didn’t feel like the story was racing by at a speed I couldn’t handle. This is the type of book that jumps right into the main plot, which I appreciate very much (not a big fan of novels that dawdle with a pointless backstory for a hundred pages). In fact, the first few lines throw us right in the deep end by saying,

“On the day I turn seventeen, there is a meeting to decide whether I should have the baby or if sneaking me to a clinic for an abortion is worth the PR risk. I am not invited, which is just as well since my being there might imply that I have some choice in the matter and I know that I have none.”

The tone for the rest of the book is set in these two simple lines. Beyond these sentences, the book does not waste time getting down to the action involving the marriage. The only thing that wasn’t addressed right away was the reasoning behind Essie’s pregnancy, and this builds some terrific suspense for when it is revealed.

I really enjoyed most of the presence of the character, and even if I didn’t like them personally, I could appreciate them from a literary point of view. Essie’s mother Celia, for example, while unlikeable, was placed in the story for a specific reason and Weir wrote her well into that role. Another aspect I especially liked was the relationship between Essie and Roarke. They had a comfortable chemistry build on the foundation that they both had secrets they’re desperate to hide, but even more desperate to share with someone else to alleviate the weight on their shoulders. Their relationship was like a breath of fresh air in the midst of a traumatic atmosphere and the friendship they end up creating in enviable for any young person.

I think Weir handled some touché subjects with ease, such as rape, incest, child molestation, and homophobia. In excess, these topics can grow to be unbearable to read about, but here the author sprinkled in little nuggets of hope and human decency that gave me the motivation to read on. It was realistic and yet also theatrical, given the nature of Essie’s life.

The Book of Essie gave an insightful look into the often-time hypocritical world of staunch evangelicals, especially those that advertise their picture perfect lifestyles. How deep down, it’s just a hoax to judge people that don’t fit your personal ideals. While this was portrayed well, I wish there was more detail surrounding the phenomenon that is reality television. For example, why was the American public so fixated on watching the Hicks’ every move? And do they really believe that everything they’re seeing is reality? These would be interesting questions to explore, especially in the age of the Kardashians and Jersey Shore, so the fact that these ideas were only hinted upon slightly disappointed me.

There will be spoilers in the next paragraph, so read on with caution.

The ending was satisfying and concise. It was a happy finale for our protagonists which warmed my heart after rooting for them for so long, and all loose ends were tied together quite nicely. The only thing that was missing for me was the aftermath of Essie telling the public she was raped. As we saw in the novel Beartown (and frankly, as we see all the time in real life), there are repercussions for women who come forward about rape. This impact on Essie wasn’t really discussed, at least not in-depth. Since Essie has such a unique outlook on the world, I would have loved to have seen this experience from her perspective.

The Book of Essie was a cleverly written coming of age book with likeable characters and emotional topics. I had the honour of following Esther Hicks on a one in a million journey through a life that she didn’t necessarily wish for, but made the best of when it came her way. I think most young girls should aspire to be like Essie (maybe not the pregnancy part, but definitely everything else in between).

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A Place for Us: Book Review

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza published in 2018.

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“A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding – a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son’s estrangement – the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from. In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family’s past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent’s faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals.”

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This is the first book released under Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, and I don’t think she could have chosen a better debut novel.

This book is divided into four parts. The first part opens up with the wedding of Haida, Layla and Rafiq’s oldest child. Immediately there is tension between the family due to Amar, the youngest in the family, making an appearance after running away three years prior. The second, and by far longest, part takes us back and explains exactly why Amar left, which has a lot to do with his relationship with his strict father. The third part goes back to Haida’s wedding, the reader now having the knowledge of everything that’s happened in the past. Finally, the fourth and in my opinion, the best part, we explore all the past stories that were told in the prior parts of the novel from the fathers perspective. Here, we learn that the hardened exterior that his children witnessed throughout their childhood may have just been a façade for the emotions that he was unsure of how to handle.

The majority of books that I read are very plot centred, and when I say that I mean my main motivation to continue reading is to find out how the plot is going to develop. A Place for Us is a rare exception where I continued reading solely for the characters and how they would continue to develop. I had a genuine interest in all of their lives and really wanted the best for them, almost as if I knew them in real life. Whether you yourself can strongly relate to the characters, each member of the family is portrayed so flawlessly imperfect in such a realistic and authentic manner that you’ll find yourself immensely caring for them.

The novel started off a bit slow for my liking, yet others might view this as a leisurely plot. As I mentioned above part two was the longest, since it covered the better part of the family’s troubles. Yet I felt that some parts dragged on and could have benefited from a bit of light editing. The pace did pick up significantly around part three when family secrets were revealed and past endeavours were exposed. Another small detail that irked me was the transitioning between perspectives so freely. The main point of views switched between Hadia, Amar and Layla, also altering between different periods of their life. Since it was not apparently clear when the POV’s were switching, I was confused and found myself backtracking to figure out whose perspective I was witnessing the story from. These are minor complaints though that can be worked through quite easily.

Mirza, despite being so young, possesses such a unique wisdom and gracefulness about family, religion and culture. Even better, she managed to masterfully weave these together to create the heartbreakingly real narrative of a modern Muslim family living in America. She touches upon the impact of 9/11 as well as the more recent political glutton that is President Trump. The pressures of devoting yourself to religion is what creates the gap between Amar and his father, something I’m sure must be common nowadays. Both the beautiful and cruel aspects of faith are highlighted in this timeless story.

Part four was by far my favourite. Anyone knows that I’m a sucker for the character trope of the strict and hardened authority figure concealing their true emotions, mainly because they don’t know how to express their true emotions. This Rafiq in a nutshell. Throughout the entire novel, the reader saw him through the lens of his children and wife as the uncompromising leader of the family, but part four allows us a glimpse into his mind. Here, we see him struggling to find a balance between his love of Islam and the love of his family, not to mention his almost palpable desperation to connect with his estranged son. It was beautifully written and the perfect way to end this novel.

A Place for Us has the potential to translate so well into a diverse array of cultures and religions. The raw emotions portrayed by Mirza are applicable to each and every one of us. If you’re still unsure about picking up this book, I’ll endorse it for the same reason that I recommended The Hate U Give; if you can’t find something to relate to in this, you’ll definitely find something that you can learn from it.

The Perfect Mother: Book Review

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy published in 2018.

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“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.”

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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.

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