“The Other Mother”
Written by Carol Goodman
I opened up “The Other Mother” during a sick day, gross with the stomach flu. At first, I thought I was really confused by the premise, because my head was foggy from fever, from chills, from the flu. After I became better, I still am not entirely sure what I read.
I am a fan of the book you don’t understand until the final twist, the book you have to read three times in a row to understand. This is reminiscent of “Shutter Island”, “A Cure for Wellness”, and I dunno, some other crazy books. We follow Daphne, who has brought her child with her away from her husband, to begin working as an archivist for her favorite author. However, Daphne is using false credentials from a mother she befriended in their post-partum mommies group.
After we get that far, I don’t know who from whom, what’s going on, who’s the villain, who’s innocent, who’s insane, and who’s perfectly healthy. We have about five different twists, and frankly, I wasn’t happy with the eventual explanation. The primary twist was okay, but predictable if you had put any thought into the book. The other twists were obvious at the beginning and seemed to disappear completely and then resurface at the end, after you think they couldn’t possibly have led to anything. The book is full of red herrings, but only 25% are actually included in the twist.
I liked the scenery, a big old creepy house with a tower and a beautiful library. My head was full of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” meets “Phantom of the Opera” meets “The Sixth Sense”. I wish this was more eerie and suspenseful, it just seems like a lot of: “Am I crazy? Wait, I can’t be crazy! I know this to be true and that to be true. Wait. Are you sure I’m the person I think I am? I hope I don’t hurt my baby!” I think this would be a fantastic play, but in book form, it seemed too drawn out and confusing.
I have some specific examples I’d like to include to further explain my thoughts on “The Other Mother”.
- Because we aren’t sure who is the true narrator, Daphne or Laurel, we have an unreliable, unlikeable narrator. I am not a fan of those narration types. I need to know everything that’s going on, as it’s going on. Yeah, go ahead and throw a spoiler twist at the end, but at least let me have a sane narrator for 80 percent of the book.
- I like that we have multiple narrative styles, even if they’re jumbled. We read through Daphne (???)’s first person, her and Laurel’s journal entries, and Edith’s journal entries.
- · In the beginning, Daphne (???) is reading the patient files of her boss’s father, and it’s very creepy and eerie, similar to the case studies and journals of Dr. Jekyll, in “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. The “Strange Case” book is my favorite classic horror book, so I was happy to draw the connections and enjoyed the parallels as I read.
- · As I mentioned earlier, yes, the author did research into post-partum depression and psychosis, but since she did not experience it first hand, I wonder if she’s doing it a justice. I’m going to be researching into both, as well as intrusive thoughts. Coinciding with the intrusive thoughts, are experiencing Borderline Personality Disorder or is it a result of the plot twist? The resolution in this book is as clear as mud.
- · Also, like I said earlier, I called part of the main spoiler by page 25.
- · There’s a lot of weird pop culture references. For example, there’s a rambling thought about Kim Kardashian and Kanye West...
- · “He said in a voice so low I could feel it rumble in my bowels”.
I recommend this if you like unreliable narrators with debatable depictions of mental illness.
I received a complimentary advanced reader’s copy from William Morrow.