This showed up two days before I left for family vacation in the Dominican Republic and it was the absolute perfect fit for those airport down hours and the lounge chairs at the beach. Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is a captivating page-turner that you need to get right now, or at very least add to your must haves for summer cottage season. Without giving any spoilers away at all, Paula Daly has taken every mom’s nightmare of losing a child, shaken the plot up every so slightly, tossed in a hefty dose of shocking plot twists (I never saw them coming.) and a hint of psychological thriller. All of that combines to create a dynamite fictional adventure that starts when an overburdened and exhausted working Mom loses her friend’s child while she is supposed to be watching her. Ratchet up the guilt meter, because what could be worse than an already drained mama feeling like she was the cause of everyone’s distress?
Just What Kind of Mother Are You? was the perfect beach read for me this week. I couldn’t put it down and got sunburnt hands but only on the sides (reader’s sunburn) from holding the book and being totally immersed this week. In fact I feel like this one lends itself to potentially being a runaway 2013 hit and a clear bestseller this summer. The topic matter is universally appealing to pretty much every working mother in every first world country. The writing is solid and the plot twists come at breakneck speed.
Lisa Kallisto is a working mother of three, managing married life just barely, and parenting her kids, most days just adequately enough, while running an animal shelter and struggling to carve out adult friendships as well. She is married to a man who adores her, a man who drives a taxi for a living. She grew up, the narrator tells us, in her father’s second family. Her childhood comes to a fast end when her dad’s first wife arrives in her neighbourhood one day asking to see his “bastard.” Her visit culminates in a suicide attempt in front of the child. She tells little Lisa to make sure she tells her father about the visit and then slits her wrists in front of her, having sent the other wife out to fetch some sugar for tea.
Kate Riverty is Lisa’s neighbour. She appears to have it all under control, the Mom with the best kids, the PTA fundraising queen, the most accomplished wife who works hard to keep her family immaculate and, yet there is just the slightest hint, she is a bit too perfect. Lisa works far to hard to aspire to the ideals that Moms like Kate set and then one night when Kate’s daughter is supposed to be sleeping over at Lisa’s home, she drops the ball and Kate’s daughter Lucinda disappears. In their small town pedophile has been lurking and one young girl has already turned up raped and disoriented. Kate, Lisa and their rest of the town worry Lucinda is the next victim.
Just What Kind of Mother Are You? has it all. The plot is fast, the characters are well rounded and this concept is not one I have seen perverted well in fiction form until now. So what complaints do I have, if any? This is a nearly perfect thriller that captivated me from start to finish. Just What Kind of Mother Are You? doesn’t have the kind of lyrical writing that you will recall for weeks and months or rhapsodize over at book club. There are few poetic flourishes and that’s more than okay, because that style of writing would be out of place here. Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is a story well told, executed with great timing.
Paula Daly is a mother and physiotherapist. This is her first novel. Let’s just say I hope she is not a one hit wonder, because this is a great read.
Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly, Fiction, published by DoubleDay Canada, is $22.95 in paperback, 314 pages. This gets my full $$$$$ out of $$$$$. Loved it.