Book Review: The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The May Mothers are everywhere. Sometimes I stand at the window, peering out from behind the curtain, trying to get a bit of sunlight on my face, and then I see them. A few hours ago it was Yuko, waling on the shady side of the street, a yoga mat under her arm, ear buds in her ears. Then, not twenty minutes later, Colette. She was with a guy I assumed to be Charlie. Big-time writer Charlie. Poppy was strapped to his chest and he and Colette were holding hands, laughing about something, passing an iced coffee back and forth, her arms heavy with flowers from the farmers’ market. The ideal Brooklyn family. So good at making perfect look so easy.

A group of new moms, calling themselves The May Mothers for the coincidence that their babies were all born in the same early summer month, meet regularly to commiserate in the early days of new motherhood and build friendships based on this shared season of life. In one meeting filled even more fully with comments on the hardship of those first few months with a child, the suggestion is made that the women take a night for themselves, sans babies, to rediscover the women they were before the became mothers. So the decision is made to leave the babies with husbands, partners and sitters and venture out into the New York nightlife for an evening well deserved. All is well, until a series of suspicious events at the nightclub culminate in the abduction of Midas, the infant son of Winnie, one of the groups more mysterious attendees.

“They’ll find him, Winnie. They will. We’ll all have Midas back. I promise.” A not before they stand at the rail of her terrace, gazing out across Brooklyn at million of windows, behind which babies sleep, safe and sounds—the inhabitants possibly looking back at them, three shattered mothers, their hair whipping in the hot July wind, their hearts full of dread.

What follows is the routine police investigation which occurs mostly in the background of the homespun investigations led by three of the May Mothers—Francie, Nell and Colette who each dive into the search for Midas with varying degrees of intensity and their own unique reasons for doing so. It is through their participation in the search and their individual narratives that we are able to see a tangential plot line which exposes the unrealistic expectations society has for new mothers and how this alone can devastate even the strongest of women.

“Don’t they know how hard this all is? The pressure of just keeping these babies alive. The task of loving someone like this, and how easy it is to fuck this up, the we’re sure our mother did.” Her voice breaks. “Some days I honestly think I’m going to fall apart. I’m so bloody tired. I know it happens, but can you even imagine? Hurting your own child?

As the story twists and turns, clues are uncovered and red herrings abound which add to the suspense and lingering suspicion of those within the prestigious mommy group and those on the periphery. Culminating in a fast-paced and shocking scene, The Perfect Mother is a solid and gripping psychological thriller about the fierce demands of motherhood and the raw emotions of loss.

I didn’t have anyone else, and so yes, in the beginning I went to their meetings, hoping to find something in common with them; something in our shared experience of motherhood that might help life the darkness of those first few months, which everyone always said were the hardest. It’ll get easier, the health experts wrote. Give it time. Well things didn’t get easier. I’ve been blamed for what happened that Fourth of July night. But not a day goes by that I don’t remind myself of the truth. It’s not my fault. It’s theirs.

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A review copy of this title was provided by Harper Books

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