REVIEW: STONE MOTHERS, BY ERIN KELLY

 

You can’t keep the secret.
You can’t tell the truth.
You can’t escape the past…Marianne was seventeen when she fled her home in Nusstead—leaving behind her family, her boyfriend, Jesse, and the body they buried. Now, thirty years later, forced to return to in order to help care for her sick mother, she can feel the past closing around her. And Jesse, who never for-gave her for leaving in the first place, is finally threatening to expose the truth.

Marianne will do anything to protect the life she’s built, the husband and daughter who must never know what happened all those years ago. Even if it means turning to her worst enemy for help… But Marianne may not know the whole story—and she isn’t the only one with secrets they’d kill to keep.

My Thoughts: Stone Mothers begins with present day Marianne, who is struggling to overcome her fears of past events, along with the dark secrets she has hidden for many years.

Her husband Sam has just bought a second home in the worst place possible. A place that has kept her nightmares alive over the years.

How will the people and places of that time stay hidden? What will she do to outrun the darkness?

Our story flashes back to the beginning and reveals how it all unfolded. We learn what happened between Jesse, Marianne, and Helen…and then we are offered a peek into Helen’s history, which changes how we see her.

Issues of mental health treatment and how the antiquated systems derailed the lives of many kept me glued to the pages. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE OTHER MOTHER, BY CAROL GOODMAN

 

When Daphne Marist and her infant daughter, Chloe, pull up the gravel drive to the home of Daphne’s new employer, it feels like they’ve entered a whole new world. Tucked in the Catskills, the stone mansion looks like something out of a fairy tale, its lush landscaping hiding the view of the mental asylum just beyond its border. Daphne secured the live-in position using an assumed name and fake credentials, telling no one that she’s on the run from a controlling husband who has threatened to take her daughter away.

Daphne’s new life is a far cry from the one she had in Westchester where, just months before, she and her husband welcomed little Chloe. From the start, Daphne tries to be a good mother, but she’s plagued by dark moods and intrusive thoughts that convince her she’s capable of harming her own daughter. When Daphne is diagnosed with Postpartum Mood Disorder, her downward spiral feels unstoppable—until she meets Laurel Hobbes.

Laurel, who also has a daughter named Chloe, is everything Daphne isn’t: charismatic, sophisticated, fearless. They immediately form an intense friendship, revealing secrets to one another they thought they’d never share. Soon, they start to look alike, dress alike, and talk alike, their lives mirroring one another in strange and disturbing ways. But Daphne realizes only too late that being friends with Laurel will come at a very shocking price—one that will ultimately lead her to that towering mansion in the Catskills where terrifying, long-hidden truths will finally be revealed….

 

My Thoughts: A surreal story, The Other Mother taps into our worst fears: that somehow we will be controlled by others and our lives will no longer be our own.

Husbands with nefarious plans and doctors who are easily turned by others kept me turning pages and wondering if I, too, had been tricked and controlled by this very tale.

I wanted to root for all the female characters, as each, in some way, had a story that felt credible. So which story will we believe?

Just when I thought I couldn’t be more confused, pieces of the puzzle began to click into place. Suddenly everything made a kind of sense, and the twisted elements took us back in time, to the early 1970s…and then carried us forward to the present. Who would finally regain the life that belonged to her? And who has died, while others have lived to share the truth? 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE PROMISE BETWEEN US, BY BARBARA CLAYPOLE WHITE

 

Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.

But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?

To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.

My Thoughts: The opening portion of The Promise Between Us shows Katelyn MacDonald suffering in the throes of her fearful and anxious thoughts. Fears that she would hurt her baby; dark and frightening impulses that could lead to danger. The terrifying moments were excruciating, and when the story resumes, Katelyn is no longer in the picture, it is several years later, and her father, Callum, shows his perspective.

He and his wife Lilah are expecting a baby, while the two of them are trying to parent Maisie, now a ten-year-old child. Issues have cropped up for Maisie, and the two are struggling.

We then rejoin Katelyn, now Katie Mack, a metal artist. As she voices her thoughts, it is clear that she now has a diagnosis for her fears and anxieties: she is suffering from OCD. Not the kind of disorder that we often think of when we hear the term, but a much harsher, more painful version of the illness. The version that drove Katie away from her family in the fear that she would harm her baby.

I enjoyed learning more about OCD and discovering through the characters that there are strategies for dealing with the illness. Strategies learned in therapy.

How does an accidental meeting between Katie and her daughter Maisie, after nine years, offer up an opportunity for her to help her daughter, now struggling with the same disorder? How does she break through Cal’s fear and anger so that she can help her daughter? How does long-time friend Jake factor into the decision to communicate and learn from one another?

Secrets had kept them all at odds, but communication and help could bring healing.

This was an inspirational story, and I couldn’t stop reading it. My only problem was how many disabling disorders were going on within this small group, from the characters with OCD to some with PTSD. It was almost overwhelming, and sometimes I had to put the book down for a while. I did connect with the characters, though, and rooted for them all through their journeys. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE HOUSEKEEPER, BY SUELLEN DAINTY

When Anne Morgan’s successful boyfriend—who also happens to be her boss—leaves her for another woman, Anne finds herself in desperate need of a new job and a quiet place to recover. Meanwhile, her celebrity idol, Emma Helmsley (England’s answer to Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey), is in need of a housekeeper, an opportunity which seems too good to be true.

Through her books, website, and blog, Emma Helmsley advises her devoted followers on how to live a balanced life in a hectic world. Her husband, Rob, is a high profile academic, and her children, Jake and Lily, are well-adjusted teenagers. On the surface, they are the perfect family. But Anne soon finds herself intimately ensconced in the Helmsley’s dirty laundry, both literally and figuratively. Underneath the dust, grime, and whimsical clutter, everyone has a secret to hide. And Anne’s own disturbing past soon threatens to unhinge everything…

MY THOUGHTS:
In the beginning, The Housekeeper seemed to be a book about one young woman’s love gone wrong, and how she found a way to start over as a domestic helper for a famous blogger and her psychologist husband.

But soon we are swept up into a gradual process of enmeshment, as the Helmsley family come to expect more and more from Anne, while making it seem as though they are doing her a favor by making her feel like family. But Anne does not notice the subtle expectations, since she admires Emma and Rob and the life they have created, and being a part of it all feels so good.

When Anne has some memory flashes, it seems natural that she would ask her boss, the psychologist, for his opinions. What will happen next? Will the horrors of her childhood change everything about the life she has recreated?

I was blown away by how the story played out, and could not stop reading it. I was furious with Emma and Rob, and how they played on Anne’s need for family. They seemingly brought her into the cozy circle that was developing between them, when, in fact, they were using her to carry out the façade of the perfect family/professional couple. She did a good job of glossing over their imperfections by keeping their lives running smoothly, and what they gave her in return was betrayal.

Skillfully wrought, the story aroused emotions, kept me engaged, and left me with much more to think about. In the end, there was a sense of closure that I didn’t see coming, and it felt good. A 5 star read for me.

***

REVIEW: EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

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Dr. Eric Parrish, Chief of the Psychiatric Unit at Havemeyer Hospital in Philadelphia, is enjoying the fruits of his labor at work. His hospital has even earned an award for its performance, which many credit him for.

His personal life, however, is at an all-time low. His wife Caitlyn has left him, and she is doing sneaky things with regard to his visitation with their daughter Hannah. Eric realizes that she has a new boyfriend, and this probably explains a lot about her new attitude.

Then Eric is abruptly brought into the case of a seventeen-year-old boy named Max, who is suffering from depression and possibly other issues due to his grandmother’s impending death.

In treating Max, Eric soon learns of the boy’s obsessions, part of his OCD, which center on a young girl named Renee.

Suddenly everything is seemingly out of control for Eric, as Max goes missing after his grandmother’s death, and the young woman Renee has been found murdered. And at the hospital, a young medical student named Kristine has filed sexual harassment charges against him, which stuns Eric, since she has been coming on to him…and he has shut her down. Are these events random, or is someone pulling the strings? What is the end game?

Every Fifteen Minutes was a fast-paced suspense story narrated in Eric’s first person voice, and alternately narrated by an unidentified sociopath. The sociopath also uses the first person voice, and calls himself/herself a “sociopath” and outlines a vague plan to take Eric down. Who is this unidentified sociopath and why is he or she fixated on Eric?

I could not read this book fast enough, eager to find out who had done what. I had suspicions that the “puppeteer” had to be a colleague. But at the very end, a stunning reveal left me reeling. 5 stars.