Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Other Mother

The Other Mother by Carol Goodman
HarperCollins: 3/27/18
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 978006256264

The Other Mother by Carol Goodman is a highly recommended Gothic tale of motherhood and madness.

Daphne Marist meets her best friend, Laurel Hobbes, at a Westchester support group for new mothers with postpartum depression. The two women both have daughters named Chloe and both are married to controlling older men. They quickly become close friends and soon Daphne is going to Laurel's gym, visiting her hair stylist, and wearing similar clothes. While Laurel seems to suddenly be in a downward spiral, and her husband confides in Daphne that she is mentally ill, Daphne's husband, Peter, seems intent on still questioning her own mental stability and fitness as a parent.

Daphne takes her infant daughter, Chloe, and secretly leaves her husband and home. Assuming Laurel's identity and credentials, she accepts a job under Laurel's name as a live-in archivist for Schuyler Bennett, an author whose Catskills' mansion borders the grounds of a psychiatric institution where her father, Dr. Bennett, was once the director. Daphne tells no one her true identity and tries to involve herself in her job while piecing together what has been happening to her and uncovering secrets found in Bennett's papers.

The Other Mother is presented in three parts and includes excerpts from several different journals along with Daphne's first-person narrative. Daphne's thoughts clearly make her an unreliable narrator; you can't tell if she is having a mental break with reality or if there is some underhanded plot to make her think she is mentally ill and has lost touch with reality. Clearly, both husbands are controlling jerks, but is Daphne unwell?

Goodman presents a very twisty plot of domestic suspense brimming with unreliable narrators, tangled identities, and dark motives where secrets are slowly uncovered. Daphne's character is developed, but since she is also unreliable and suffering from postpartum OCD. She is full of doubt and confusion. The writing is quite good, but the big twist at the end left me shaking my head. And, no spoilers, but there is a certain point where I kept thinking a very simple blood test should have been done and would have answered a vital question. 3.5

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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