The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah

The Wrong MotherThere’s no doubt that being the mother of young children can be daunting. Whether balancing family and work outside the home, or staying home and giving oneself over 100% for family, the stress can be significant. It’s so significant for one mother in this literary thriller that she regularly writes eerily passionate entries in her diary about her desire to harm, and maybe even kill, her own daughter.

For another mother in this novel, it’s the desire to have a week alone — just one week — to pamper herself, to sleep through the night, to experience adulthood without spilled cereal, scattered toys, and a hapless, semidetached husband. It’s this mother and her weekend retreat that leads to disaster and discovery.

As innocent as the week away is initially intended, it soon leads to a casual affair that has far-reaching implications, not only for the woman involved (Sally), but for a whole host of families that seem to be connected in some way that is not immediately clear. The story opens with Sally, one year after her affair, seeing a photo of a man who has lost his wife and daughter to a murder-suicide on the news. The news story names the same man she spent time with and the details regarding his wife and daughter fit everything he told her, but… the photo is not that of the man with whom she spent that errant week.

Not wanting to expose her indiscretion, but knowing that she has valuable information about this case, Sally begins to send the police anonymous messages. Not long after that, she notices that she’s being followed, and it’s clear that someone means to do her harm.

Not only does Sophie Hannah create a psychological thriller that is impossible to put down, she has the reader rethinking what the “perfect” mother, is and whether being such a person is possible or even necessary. With much to engage readers, this book is perfect fodder for discussion about motherhood, family, and the extent of love.

Penguin Books; ISBN 978-0-14311-630-1; $15.

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