New Fiction Friday: Just What Kind of Mother Are You?

9780802121622_p0_v5_s260x420Can I just say first off that the very title of this book is intimidating?  Just What Kind of Mother Are You?  Hopefully a good one!  Don’t be fooled – this is in no way a parenting book.  Instead, it is a very compelling mystery of a young girl who has disappeared, it’s a great page-turner.  I’m going to blame this book for the lack of sleep I’ve gotten in the past few days.  Paula Daly, the mastermind behind this haunting mystery has found away to expose a parent’s worst fears, losing a child.  The book was released in September, but was very recently released in paperback.

As a mother of three, Lisa, who is also the director of the local animal shelter, has quite a bit going on her life.  Her 12 year old  daughter was having a week-night sleepover with a friend, and when that friend who was supposed to come home with her daughter from school didn’t show up, she blanked and forgot to get in touch with the girl’s mother.  Of course this is a huge oversight, but it was a combination of juggling everything else, and assuming that the girl’s mother was already aware that her daughter wasn’t at Kate’s house.  Yet, Daly makes it seem that one slight misstep like this one could’ve happened to anyone.  The next morning the girl doesn’t show up for school, yet nobody really realizes she’s missing until that afternoon, when her mother becomes concerned that her daughter doesn’t come home from school.  At that point she’d been gone for almost 24 hours, and everyone is completely freaked.  Adding to the panic, a girl of similar age had recently been kidnapped and raped, and the attacker was still at large.

Throughout the first days of the search for this young girl, details are revealed about Lisa’s relationship with her husband, and with the girl’s mother, Kate.  One critical detail is revelaed about Lisa, that happened during a dinner party at Kate’s house.  Everyone had had a bit too much to drink, Lisa included, and she had sex with Kate’s brother in law in one of Kate’s bathrooms.  I’m not sure if this detail was meant to damage Lisa’s credibility, because I don’t think that it does.  Instead, I think it points out a vulnerability in Lisa, who is an otherwise strong woman.  She has always felt inferior to Kate and her family, as Kate’s husband is a doctor and Lisa’s works as a taxi driver.  She was flattered by this man’s attention, and in a way it was a way for her, for once, to feel superior.  These feelings are only made worse with her personal feeling of responsibility when Kate’s daughter goes missing.

Here she is after showing up at Kate’s house to help: “My voice is weak and shaky.  I want to ask how she is, but I can’t bring myself to do it, because it’s such an inadequate question.  Because you know they’re not all right.  You know they’re holding on to the edge, their fingernails scratching to keep a hold.”

About a hundred pages in, the story takes a twist, pulling the missing girl’s father into suspicion.  At this point it became almost impossible to put the book down!  Of course there are several leads, taking the reader in several directions, so it’s hard to predict the book’s ending.  (Isn’t that mark of a great book?)  After a couple days into the search, a third victim is kidnapped.  Yet the details are different that of Lucinda’s (Kate’s daughter) disappearance.  After the third girl is kidnapped, Kate and her husband have a falling out, which Lisa overhears after calling apparently in the middle of this argument.  Kate tried to call her friend the following morning, and when she got no answer by telephone she decides to go over to Kate’s house.  There, shockingly, she finds the house almost empty, with Kate passed out on the kitchen floor.  Later that day Kate’s husband is arrested in connection with Lucinda’s investigation.

Wow!  This young girl’s disappearance has touched so many lives, uncovering some unflattering details about a family that was believed to be so perfect.  This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while, and now that I’ve finished it, I can rest again!

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