Published by HarperCollins on May 1st 2018
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I enjoyed this quite a lot.
The Perfect Mother definitely has something of a Moriarty vibe (Liane, not Jim) but I personally found it better paced. I struggled with the slowness and tame domesticity of Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret and Truly Madly Guilty, though I enjoyed the HBO adaptation of Big Little Lies. I would say that this book is more like the latter. It’s predominantly about women and the relationships between them, with the thriller aspect of a missing baby providing the stage on which these complex friendships and loyalties play out.
Molloy splits the narrative in an interesting way. The “present” of the story contains short, hard-hitting chapters that briefly reflect on the events leading up to that moment, and then the book moves to the past and explores what happens when an infant goes missing while his mother – Winnie – is getting a much-needed night out with other members of her “mommy group”.
This colourful group of women drive the story, which is largely about the pressures put on mothers to be “perfect”. As the case plays out, we see news articles and talk shows questioning Winnie’s behaviour: how could she go out drinking while her poor baby was being kidnapped? Her friends from her group are also forced to question how much they really know Winnie, and each other.
Molloy captures what it is like to drive yourself a little crazy trying to be that elusive “perfect mother” and shows the dark events that can unfold in the wake of such impossible aspirations. Ultimately, though, there is something very uplifting about this group of mothers banding together and putting aside their doubts to help one of their own. These women – each from different backgrounds with very different financial situations – put strains on their relationships and careers to help find Winnie’s baby.
The Perfect Mother is being called a “thriller”, which I suppose technically it is, but it is far more a tale of motherhood and female friendship in all their beautiful, vicious glory.