I had a busy weekend! I devoured Leave Me Novel by Gayle Forman * Book Review and then I decided to pick the book next to it to see how it goes. The subjects were so similar that I had trouble writing my reviews as I kept on mixing them up. One deals with a mother leaving her children in order to escape and find herself, the other with another mother going through a severe case of post-partum depression whose girl goes missing and she is the prime suspect in a case of possible murder.
Both book deal with the pressure that is put on most women to maintain a household and bring up children without leaving much space for introspection or good mental health practices. In both, the husbands are either absent or ineffectual and the children are problematic.
Estelle Paradise is a Failure (with a capital F). She’s failed at college, she’s failed in relationships, she’s failed in Life. Enter Jack with whom sleeps soon after meeting him, becomes pregnant and marries. Their daughter Mia is born. Exit Jack to a new job out of town, leaving Estelle and Mia to fend for themselves in Jack’s flat. Mia is a cry-baby – literally. Cries all day, cries all night, then – wham! – suddenly no more Mia. Where is she? Ah well, that’s when Estelle becomes a little more interested in Mia than she has been since her birth a few months earlier.
It’s obvious, to this reader anyway, that Estelle is in the throes of post-natal depression, but no-one else sees it.
“How many times did I want to forget painful memories of my life? And now this, here I am, trying to remember them all. What a joke, and again, the joke’s on me.”
By page 36 Jack has signed Estelle into a psychiatric hospital, not because of the depression, but because by now Mia is missing and Estelle isn’t making sense. Jack is in need of a course in anger management, and it’s a blessing when he moves out of town, and ostensibly out of the book, as the only thing he did was father the missing baby. Jack is now off the radar.
As the story unfolds with each memory recovered by amnesia-suffering Estelle, she tells her life and her subsequent failures to her psychiatrist and slowly puts together a story of despair and solitude.
Alexandra Burt does a really magnificent job of exploring the mindset of a mother on the edge – there is a huge authenticity here that pops off the page. Estelle as a character draws both sympathy and frustration as she goes on this journey – her frustration is your frustration and boy does that make the whole thing highly readable and extraordinarily addictive.
The ending is a bit shoddy with many plot turns and it gets ridiculous at one point – an entire scheme of baby kidnappers is uncovered and an underground network whose sole purpose is selling cute looking babies to rich infertile couples.
Mia, the child, is not found for a few years and the only way Estelle manages to get a hold of her is through a video of a busted cult who was harbouring loads of children and one of the children in the video had the same cuts on her hands as the ones that Estelle gave her child by putting an easily breakable lamp next to the cot.
She’s not gonna win “Mother of The Year” award but the story is gripping enough to make it work.
PS: If you want to read a true story about post-partum depression, check out The Little House by Philippa Gregory