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The Mother by Jane Caro


She would die for her daughter, but would she ever kill for her?

Just like the garden, the fuse box, the bills, bin night and blown light bulbs, this was just something else she'd now have to take care of herself.

Recently widowed, Miriam is a respectable real estate agent, devoted mother and grandmother. She was delighted when her youngest daughter Ally found Nick and was engaged after a whirlwind romance. He seemed nice enough… However, the newlyweds soon move out of town and, separated from friends and family, Ally’s life begins to revolve entirely around Nick. She abandons her studies, sells her car and is only known by his new nickname for her, Sonny. Soon Ally is pregnant and Nick increases his control, questions her mental health and keeps Miriam at a distance.

Miriam is concerned, but hasn’t seen any violence or controlling behaviour first hand.

Her son in law is an ordinary seemingly law abiding middle class veterinarian. Plus, her daughter adamantly denies any wrongdoing. But Miriam still fears something isn’t right. Should she believe her gut instinct or simply accept what she is being told? Jane Caro cleverly creates intrigue and builds suspense.

When the truth is revealed, Miriam watches in disbelief as Ally and her children find themselves increasingly vulnerable. Once Ally leaves her husband, we begin to understand that this is really only the beginning of her journey to freedom. When the situation escalates, it becomes only too clear that there is very little protection available and Ally is living in constant fear. Every day she is exposed to harassment just on the right side of the law or can’t be corroborated.

Meanwhile, Miriam considers what she needs to do to protect her daughter and what lengths she will go to. The Mother is storytelling at its best, primarily because Miriam is relatable and many readers will see aspects of themselves in her character. Miriam’s relationship with her daughter Ally has been complicated in the past and this strain intensifies the narrative. However, their love and unconditional support for each other remains.

I’ve seen devastating news reports of partner violence, but I was still shocked as Ally’s story of coercive control unfolded. While this is fiction, it could so easily be your neighbour’s, sister’s or friend’s story. Every week we hear of another woman killed in circumstances with a known history of violence and breached restraining orders. The Mother explores serious societal issues, but is still a gripping thriller.

The Mother is a fast paced, edgy read. Jane Caro an award-winning Australian broadcaster, documentary maker and social commentator. She has published twelve books and The Mother is her first novel for adults.

Reviewer: Andrea Molloy Allen & Unwin, RRP $36.99