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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The Woman in the Window: Book Review

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn published in 2018.

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“Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times…and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.”

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This might end up being a short review because there are only so many different ways of saying “I love this book so much.”

I had the amusement of following Anna Fox, a former child psychologist living in her New York home, or should I say, never leaving her New York home. A traumatic incident leaves her with agoraphobia (an anxiety disorder that causes one to fear open and unfamiliar spaces), which causes her to be a prisoner in her own home. To pass the time, she watches her neighbours live their own lives. When the Russell family moves into the house across the park, Anna’s world is turned on its head. She finds solace in Jane Russell and her son Ethan, staying clear of the short-tempered Alistair Russell. One day she witnesses something that wasn’t for her eyes, yet the mixing of her medications and alcohol causes her accusations to sound…a bit untrustworthy to those around her. Fighting to be believed and convinced she is being gaslighted, we are by Anna’s side as secrets are spilled and true identities are revealed.

I hope I don’t sound like I’m exaggerating when I say this is one of the best books I’ve read in a really long time. There isn’t anything I avidly disliked about this story. It was beautifully crafted from the very first page to the last sentence. The Woman in the Window is the epitome of suspense. I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the novel, enthralled at each twist and turn (and there were quite a few twists). It was very Hitchcock-esque, which is ironic because the main character is an ardent fan of classic thriller movies.

One of the many aspects I adored was the short and sweet chapters. Overall, the book was organized by what day the chapters took place on, and the chapters that were within these sections were typically no longer than five pages or so. Personally, I love that. It builds a delectable tension that is meant to be savoured in quick bursts. The end of each chapter ended in thrilling one-liners that kept me wanting more. Actually, just by appearance, it’s one of my longer reads (a hearty 427 pages), yet I sped through it surprisingly quick. After reading some other reviews, I discovered this is not uncommon, so obviously others can’t keep themselves from putting this book down either.

Another thing I loved was Finn’s actual writing style. It was comfortable and casual, not too advanced or pretentious. Specifically, the imagery is picture-perfect. A huge reading pet-peeve I have is over-analyzed imagery. I don’t need a paragraph long description on the shape of one cloud or how the coffee tastes. Give me the necessary details with some classic metaphors so I can have a colourful view of my character’s surroundings and I’ll be happy. That’s what Finn gave me, and I’m so thankful I didn’t have to suffer through endless adjectives and pointless explanations.

The characters were quite intriguing, specifically our protagonist Anna Fox. I found myself pitying her and her situation, wanting to reach out and help her. But I also related to her and believe that any average person who reads this will also understand her emotions. I think everyone knows that frustrating feeling when what you’re saying is not believed by the majority of people. The motivation and determination one might feel to prove that they are right are palpable, and we see this through Anna. She’s likeable yet has her flaws, as every notable character does, and I was rooting for her every step of the way.

Now I need to address the ending—nothing will be spoiled, so don’t worry. There is definitely a major twist in the end that I didn’t see coming (though I’m rather naïve when it comes to story twists). The final scenes were dramatic but not impractical. It was very action-packed and made up for some sedated parts around the middle of the story. The ending surpassed my expectations and left me utterly satisfied with every aspect. The length was ideal and all loose ends were tied up, only leaving the faintest elements to the imagination, leaving an endless amount of possibilities for Anna’s character in the future.

I’m not typically the one to re-read books, but I can see myself picking this one up again in the future. It’d be so interesting to dive back in now that I know the ending so I could revel in my newfound dramatic irony. This book is for anyone and everyone. If you can read, you should go pick up The Woman in the Window. After you’re done reading it, give it to your friend so they can read it too. And then give it to everyone in your family, and your co-worker as well, and maybe your dog while you’re at it. I promise none of you will regret investing yourself into Anna’s story.  

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