The Other Mother: A Novel by Carol Goodman

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Daphne Marist, suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter Chloe is delighted when her husband signs her up for a mothers day out type group led by a free spirited woman named Esta. She’s even more pleased when Laurel, the “super-star” mother of the group befriends her after the first session. The two women clicked almost immediately finding that the had many more things in common than both having daughters about the same age maned Chloe. Before long though, Daphne begins to see that Laurel’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems and so she begins to urge Laurel to go back to work at least part time. Daphne goes so far to even research online for potential jobs for Laurel which as readers will see later backfires on Daphne.

The book opens with Daphne arriving with Chloe in tow at a new job as an archivist for a well known author’s papers. This is a job that Daphne found while searching for possible jobs for Laurel, but instead, Daphne applies and gets the job using Laurel’s identity and credentials. At the time readers are left to wonder how this came to be, and frankly it took way to long for us to find out the how and why this ocurred.

The rest of the book is mostly given to readers from various characters’ journals and leads to us getting the story in bits and pieces. While this approach certainly builds suspense and makes the book hard to put down it also makes it a little bit hard to follow. For instance, are readers sure the woman who took the job is Daphne or is this really Laurel? There are things in the various journals that point both ways.

Another reason this book is so hard to put down is that it is creepy in a Gothic novel sort of way. The job Daphne/Laurel takes is in a house next to a mental hospital that used to be run by the author’s father. It becomes clear very early on that there are some secrets tied to that facility in the author’s past, but it is unclear what those secrets have to do with the modern day events. Daphne/Laurel senses that something isn’t quite right early on, but rather than leave when she could, she stays only later to find her opportunity to leave is gone.

I would recommend this book to readers who like a bit of creepiness in their books. This is not a supernatural or a horror book. There are no spooks or goblins, wizards or demons, but it is a little past psychological suspense in my opinion. The author has taken postpartum depression and psychosis to an entirely new level.

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