review: Marla Cantrell
By Aimee Molloy Harper | 317 pages | $28
If you’re a mom, you remember how mysterious the world of pregnancy is. How disarming motherhood can be, no matter how hard you prepare. Your body changes, your emotions are quicksilver, sharp and shifting. And worry shows up as your newest companion.
In The Perfect Mother, author Aimee Molloy captures these feelings perfectly. A group of pregnant women in Brooklyn form a group called the May Moms (each is due in May) and meet at Prospect Park twice a week to support each other. Of all the members, Winnie seems to be the one who’s unlike the rest. She’s reserved, for one thing. For another, she seems to grow more beautiful with each passing week. Plus, she’s single.
After the moms give birth, they continue to meet, bringing their babies along. Each is trying to master motherhood, and each feels she’s not measuring up. Even the stubborn pregnancy weight seems like a failure. Surely, they think, they should look and be perfect.
As the Fourth of July nears, the group plans a night on the town without their babies. It’s an easy prospect for the married moms, but for Winnie, who doesn’t have a partner, the venture seems impossible. But then, one of the moms offers her new nanny to Winnie, who reluctantly accepts.
The moms meet at a local bar. A few drink too much. A few get rowdy. And then Winnie becomes the target of unwanted attention from a man with his sights set on her.
The night should end with the women walking each other home. With stories of a July night when they blew off a little steam. But before that can happen, the nanny calls to say Winnie’s baby has gone missing, taken from his bed as she dozed in the living room.
As the police investigate, the moms’ group comes under scrutiny. Photos from the bar surface, making the women look reckless and wild. Reporters park outside Winnie’s house, watching her every move, digging up anything they can find about her past.
It turns out she has a trove of secrets. So do the other moms. As detectives unearth new clues in the baby’s disappearance, each woman comes under scrutiny. And each has to face a past they thought they’d successfully buried.
The tension builds as weeks go by with no sighting of the baby. The moms keep meeting, without Winnie of course, and they do their own detective work, putting themselves in danger.
Before the inevitable twist is revealed, we’ve come to sympathize with the women. It makes the revelation of who’s behind this crime a little scarier, hitting closer to home now that we understand the pressures of perfection.
Already, Kerry Washington, the star of Scandal, has bought the movie rights to the book, so be watching for news of a release date. If you loved Girl on a Train or Gone Girl, this book is a great summer read for you.