Monday, 6 May 2019

Book Review: The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth



Book: The Mother-in-Law

Author: Sally Hepworth

Pages: 352

Read on: Kindle

Read in: 3-4 hours

Plot Summary: Someone once told me that you have two families in your life - the one you are born into and the one you choose. Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don't choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.

From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm's length. Diana is exquisitely polite, but Lucy knows, even after marrying Oliver, that they'll never have the closeness she'd been hoping for.

But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something.

Things I Liked: 
1. The Mother-in-Law is a book about relationships and complicated family dynamics. Now, old readers of this blog will know that these are two things that I love reading about because families are just so interesting. Like Tolstoy said, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

2. The book is told through two voices- that of Lucy's (the daughter-in-law) and Diana's (the mother-in-law)- and the author has done a great job in creating these two distinct voices and characters. We get to see Lucy's life from the moment she first met her mother-in-law to-be, Diana. We see Lucy's life as a young wife, a struggling young mother and the little incidents that formed her, mostly, strained relationship with Diana. We also get to see Diana's life from when she was a young 19 year old girl. We get to see an event and a phase of her life, which played a defining role in making her who she is and the values she lives by. 

3. The characters are very well crafted. Lucy is an interesting character- she is honourable, loving and tries very hard to adjust with her husband, Oliver's, family. She is keeping a secret and for a while, everyone seems to think that she has had something to do with Diana's death. The book works backwards to show the conflict and complicated relationship between these two women and how each of them looked at the same situation from a different lens. 

4. Diana is a complicated character. While she is well crafted, but there are things about her that we don't fully understand as readers. Diana, in her own words, is not a warm and fuzzy person, which, obviously impacts her relationship with her kids and their spouses. Plus, she is very firm on her values and beliefs. She has learnt some key lessons very early on in her life and she stands firm by those learnings. Diana's character raises a very interesting question- to what extent is it okay to stand firm by one's beliefs? Is it okay to stand firm even if you could help someone, who is genuinely emotionally and physically suffering? Is teaching a life lesson more important than being there for someone? The questions are difficult with no easy answers and this is what I liked the most about this book! 

5. As far as the murder mystery aspect of this book, there are plenty of suspects with a few key reasons to want Diana dead. As we dive deeper into Diana's life and the days leading to her death, we get to see who these people are and what their issues with Diana were. This aspect is also done nicely. There are a few nicely done red herrings as well. 

Things I Didn't Like: 
1. I wish we'd have a clearer sense of how Diana was with her kids. She is shown as a loving, supportive wife, deeply in love with her husband, but her relationship with Oliver and Nettie (her kids) is shown briefly and mostly from the kids' perspective. So, I wish we'd seen this from her side as well. 

Rating: 4/5 

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