Paired together by their due dates, the May Mothers have quickly become each other’s best friends, confidants, and support group in the early days and months of parenting. After seven weeks of no sleep, dirty diapers, and trying to be the perfect mother, the group decides they need an evening out. That is especially true for single mother, Winnie.
After making arrangements for child care for Winnie’s son Midas, the group heads out to a local bar on the fourth of July to feel like grown-ups again. But things soon take a tragic turn when baby Midas vanishes from Winnie’s apartment and sets off a media firestorm. Turns out Winnie is the childhood start of a hit series about dancing and the circumstances of Midas’ disappearance threaten to expose not only her secret, but secrets of all the May Mothers.
With a hook like that one, it’s easy to see why Aimee Molloy’s debut thriller The Perfect Mother has received a lot of buzz as “the book of the summer” and why the movie rights have been snapped up. The first half of the story slowly establishes the characters (including one guy in the group, referred to a Token and who the other mothers all assume is gay), revealing just enough for the reader to feel like something more is going on here than meets the eye for most of the group members. Slowly, secrets about each is revealed, each one setting off questions in the media about the roles of mothers and the expectations society places upon them.
Like several other books I’ve read this spring, this mystery/thriller is one that not only examines the crime that has occurred but also how in the day and age of instant news and social media how crimes are tried in the court of public opinion long before they ever reach an actual courtroom. And while that’s not the focus of the novel in the way that several others stories were, it’s still an undercurrent to the novel.
And yet, as entertaining and page-turning as the first half The Perfect Mother may be, it loses momentum in the second half. Each of the mothers has something to gain and something to lose in the search for baby Midas. Molloy also includes passages narrated in the first person to keep things churning, especially as the investigation continues and we become more and more concerned about the fate of young Midas.
It could be that there was one revelation too many in the novels final quarter for this reader because it began to feel a bit like the novel was piling on twist after twist in order to deflection attention away from the central mystery. It could be fatigue on the part of this reader of having read what feels like a string of similar stories this spring (and to be honest, better done stories) more than any deficiencies of The Perfect Mother.
The final revelation is one that I figured out a few chapters before the novel lets us in on it. The novel also has the reader become more invested in certain characters than others. Or at least I did, leading to my feeling like the novel was losing momentum by focusing on the characters I wasn’t as interested in as it powered to its conclusion.
For as good as the first half of this book is, the second half didn’t quite live up to that early potential.
Does that mean you shouldn’t read it? I think it’s a good enough book to recommend, though the recommendation comes with a grain of salt.
And if you’re like me and worry about any books that puts a young child in peril to drive the central mystery, let me assure that baby Midas is fine by the last pages of the story and returned home to his mother’s care.