Posted on May 17, 2016
The Good Mother by A. L. Bird
A L Bird will be talking about The Good Mother at the FInchley Literary Festival on Friday 24th June at 3.15pm at Church End Library, Hendon Lane, London N3 1TR
A young girl gets into a car and is told her mother must not know. She is going to meet a man, who she has met before, who asks lots of questions about her family.
Susan wakes in a strange room. The door is locked. She has no idea how she got there, with her last recollection being one of opening the front door at home. Her greatest concern, however, is for her fifteen year old daughter Cara and she wonders if Cara is at home with her husband Paul.
When Susan meets her captor she begs for news of her daughter but her captor does not respond, leaving Susan desperate to know what has happened to her. When she hears Cara in the next room she is relieved and happy that her daughter is safe and, more importantly, with her.
“I’m overjoyed she’s here. She’s here and she’s safe and she’s with me. I’d much rather she were at home, safer, with Paul, but at least I have this comfort”.
Susan does all she can to keep her daughter safe and devises a system where she can communicate with Cara and works out a plan to free them. Her mothering instinct to protect is all-consuming and at times it seems that Susan is more obsessed with her daughter than a normal mother would be, even given the circumstances. She says that:
“She would be my desert island luxury, as I’ve often told her. I’ll never let her go”.
Meanwhile, Cara’s best friend Alice is interviewed at school by a private investigator, Mr Belvoir, who is working on behalf of Cara’s family. Alice knows where Cara was going but does not want to betray her friend’s secrets so does not divulge any information that will help him.
To avoid spoilers I will not elaborate any further on the plot!
The Good Mother is skilfully told in first person by Susan and the Captor, with some third person intervention via Alice. The use of italics during Susan’s viewpoint indicates she is possibly a complex character and hints that her past may somehow be connected with her current situation. Although Susan’s emotions are very powerfully expressed the empathy is not only with her. The Captor displays understanding, logic and compassion for Susan, even though he keeps her locked up, and there is the sense he wishes her no harm.
The Good Mother is a tense and exciting psychological thriller with a very unpredictable ending. The clues are all there, drip fed to the reader, challenging you to work out the puzzle. Despite working through many different possible solutions the ending was a surprise. All the clues are satisfactorily resolved by the end with none added to mislead. The plotting is excellent and original with the conclusion unforeseen. In fact, once the story has unravelled and it all becomes clear, there is still more. A superb twist which keeps you reading to the very last page.
Amy will be talking about her novel at the Finchley Literary Festival on 24th June 2016
The Good Mother is published by Carina UK (HarperCollins) and I thank them for the review copy.