Top critical review
Dysfunctional mothers. Nature versus nurture
Reviewed in the United States on January 5, 2021
Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Canada for an early electronic copy of this unsettling and riveting book. It focused on three generations of dysfunctional, unloving mothers. It raises the debate of nature versus nurture. It was well-written and compelling. Blythe's present story alternates with her neglectful and abusive mother and grandmother's past stories, and I thought the transition was not always a smooth one. This book is mainly about Blythe and her struggle to break the cycle and be viewed by herself and others as a good and caring mother.
This was a character-driven book about the disintegration of a marriage. Depending on the reader, I feel the response will be polarizing. For many, it will be a fascinating psychological study and thriller. For others, myself included, it will hold too many harsh triggers that will touch on personal memories and concerns.
There are graphic descriptions of childbirth and nursing problems, postpartum depression, failure to bond with a child, growing paranoia and deception, miscarriage, abortion, infant death, child abuse and neglect, suicide, and weak, ineffective men. Some of these topics made me personally uncomfortable.
The painful, chilling family drama was an uncomfortable read for me. Blythe is married to Fox. She fails to bond with their new baby, Violet, whom Fox adores. She finds she is uncomfortable with and dislikes her new daughter and that the child returns these feelings. Fox minimizes Blythe's concern that something is wrong with their daughter and that she is exaggerating her problems and emotional responses. They have a baby son, and Blythe is enjoying the feeling of being a normal, loving mother for the first time. There is suspicion that Violet may have committed some terrible acts. Fox makes excuses for their daughter and blames Blythe's unjustified fear and instability. He eventually leaves home.
Early in the book, I anticipated the ending but later dismissed this speculation. When it did come, it was a terrible shock but left open-ended. I believe many readers will find this a gripping story about motherhood but regret it just wasn't for me.