May is one of the longer months and you’d think I’d have gotten a lot more reading done, but alas, only two novels this month.
I did read a lot of magazines, articles, and even literary agency websites–sigh. I watched a lot of Netflix and Prime. If you want to know why, you’ll have to check HERE … but not to worry because My Twisted Writer Brain still flirts with Auntie Says and reading and writing are the top priority.
My first read of the month was:
The School For Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan. Published by Simon and Schuster, March 2022. 336 pages. Dystopian Fiction.
Okay, where do I start?
I listened to this book on audio and the narrator drove me nuts. The voice was very slow and robotic. I’m not sure if that was intended, but for me it was more distracting than helpful.
As the story goes, a mom named Frida is having a very bad day.
She is a single mother of an infant daughter. One day she leaves her daughter alone, at home, for two hours.
The child is apprehended and a court case ensues. Frida is sentenced to one year at the School for Good Mothers. This is like a prison where those deemed “bad parents” are sent to do penance and learn how to do better.
The story is set in the future, but is very believable in that the court systems are overwhelmed with such cases and want a so-called solution.
Frida’s daughter is sent to live with her ex-husband as she is shipped to the school. Everyday, the mothers are forced to work with robot children in order to learn how to be better mothers. Personal circumstances, culture, race, traditions, or beliefs have no place at the school. The teachings and rules are very black and white in how a good mother acts toward her child.
As the story unfolds, we meet characters who slapped their children or turned away for a moment and their child fell from a tree and broke their arm, only to wind up at the school.
This story leans toward discussions on racial bias, but doesn’t dive all the way in. That is just an observation, but the references that were made were very poignant, especially toward the Chinese community and the cultural differences of raising children.
I may’ve enjoyed this book more if I’d read the paper version and not listened to the robotic narration.
Apparently, this book has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, but I don’t think this compares at all.
This book has society much like it is now. The bad parents are not part of the community as they’re sequestered away in shame to be reprogrammed.
If you look at Canadian culture there was a thing called the Sixties Scoop where government workers seized Indigenous babies. They were removed from the mothers and put with white families. This was totally racially and culturally based but did we learn from it?
The reality has already occurred. In The School For Good Mothers, while it’s harsh and ugly, it’s not as heinous as what happened in our lifetime.
Is it okay to leave your baby alone for two hours? Of course not, but mental health, postpartum depression, isolation, and ignorance can play a big role. The book does raise these questions in the reader and acts as a reminder that support for single moms, dads, parents, and families is an ongoing need.
The Stranger by Harlan Coben. Published by Dutton–Penguin Random House, January 2020, 464 pages. Psychological Thriller.
OMG, I ate this book for breakfast.
Hooked on page two! Boom! That was it. I read and read and read like I hadn’t for a very long time. I love this kind of psychological thriller that keeps you guessing.
The premise of this book was that a stranger approached Adam and said…”you didn’t need to stay with her,” the stranger said. Adam responded and everything changed.
So well done.
Adam is a married man with two teen boys and what the stranger alludes to is that he doesn’t know his wife as well as he thought he did. With the doubt, paranoia, and evidence before him, he confronts his wife. She disappears… now what?
Very clever writing.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a psych thriller that didn’t have to work really hard to keep me guessing. This author knows what he’s doing when he leaves the chapter hanging and then goes to a totally different character.
Many of the psych thrillers I’ve read in the last few years left too many red herrings that intentionally took the reader down the wrong path with the only intention of proving the reader wrong. When you read something like that, it ceases to be enjoyable as a reader because the author is manipulating too much as opposed to letting the story unfold.
In The Stranger, I saw where the author was going for a while and then he’d change directions. Well done!
So enjoyed this book I’ll definitely buy this author again.
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