Author: Aimee Molloy
Type: Fiction, novel
I read it: August 2018
First of all, hats off once again to the DMPL. I won a copy of this book over the summer alongside other library goodies during a little contest they ran. Love my library!
The Perfect Mother is about, in a general sense, what you think it’s about: mothers who are very much not perfect. The book takes place in Brooklyn, New York, where the pressure to conform to modern motherhood is at its peak (or so I assume—I don’t know anything about Brooklyn, but I get the sense that people try really hard at life there). We meet an array of women (plus one man) called the May Mothers, all of whom had due dates close to each other and meet in the park on a regular basis.
But the book is a thriller, and the jumping off point is the kidnapping of one of the babies. Cleverly, the author has this event take place when the mothers are all out trying to unwind at a local bar. Inevitably, the media (including tiresome Christian types) latch onto the story and suggest that, by definition of the ladies’ drinking, it’s questionable whether some of them are fit to be mothers at all. When the police aren’t able to follow up on their few possible leads, the women, whose lives are all unraveling in various ways, take things into their own hands.
The setup is solid enough, and the structure is relevant to the story—most chapters begin with “today’s advice” email reminders that many parents, moms especially, will recognize. But something still lacks at the core of the book. Perhaps it’s the acrobatics of having so many characters. Several of the mothers get their own POVs, but the quantity of each does not balance. The main character seems to be Winnie, the mother whose baby was stolen, but only for a while. To shroud the big reveal, Molloy has to eventually focus more on Francie, the least New York type and therefore the most relatable and sympathetic. So perhaps it’s Francie’s story in the end?
The author shoots for a lot, intending to have a book that encompasses multiple ways that modern moms struggle to stay afloat—emotionally, physically, financially, and socially—while also crafting a crime drama that has to move at a swift pace. I can’t necessarily say that the book didn’t succeed on those fronts, but there were plenty of times when I felt I was reading the book out of duty more than out of joy. Is this the type of tale that has to hit its target audience squarely, while the rest of us nod along, not knowing if we’re reading about real people or stereotypes? I truly don’t know whether or not to recommend The Perfect Mother. I just know that all parents (but yes, especially moms) deserve a night out from time to time.