Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.
You know how sometimes a book is marketed a certain way and then you read it and you come away going “huh, that’s not what I thought it would be”?
That’s what happened for me with A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas.
Ruth Hartland is a psychotherapist with years of experience. But professional skill is no guard against private grief. The mother of grown twins, she is haunted by the fact that her beautiful, difficult, fragile son Tom, a boy who never “fit in,” disappeared a year and a half earlier. She cannot give up hope of finding him, but feels she is living a kind of half-life, waiting for him to return.
Enter a new patient, Dan–unstable and traumatized–who looks exactly like her missing son. She is determined to help him, but soon, her own complicated feelings, about how she has failed her own boy, cloud her professional judgement. And before long, the unthinkable becomes a shattering reality….
Paula Hawkins (whose marketing team is definitely Patient Zero for the whole ‘Girl’ phenomenon) blurbs the book. Everything about it screams psychological thriller. Maybe a touch of domestic noir. I thought I was in for something like The Woman in the Window, maybe something like The Widow by Fiona Barton.
Instead, A Good Enough Mother is more a meditation on loss, on motherhood, on the ways that women make room for children and a career, on the thousand ways that that works and doesn’t work. Ruth loses her son and spends her days going over all the different ways that she could go back and undo that loss. She shoulders the blame from a lifetime of being the one in her marriage to try and make room for both her family and her career.
I liked the thriller subplot to this one – I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what Dan’s deal was and that plot’s ending was pretty devastating. But I thought the book’s strength was that it was so much more than a thriller and I wish that it had been marketed as more than just that book that will keep you up at night racing through pages.
I suspect that A Good Enough Mother will be passed over by a lot of readers who think they have already read this book many times over and that’s a shame. It deserves better.