Saturday, 22 December 2018

Review: 'We Were Mothers' by Katie Sise

I requested We Were Mothers because the blurb is pure drama. Coming off a year full of brilliant TV and films focusing on women’s lives, I was looking to continue similarly into the winter but unfortunately We Were Mothers didn’t quite take me there. Thanks to Little A and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

 Pub. Date: 10/1/2018
Publisher: Little A

 A brilliant, twisty novel about a missing woman, an unfaithful husband, and the dark secrets that will destroy two perfect families. 
 A scandalous revelation is about to devastate a picturesque town where the houses are immaculate and the neighborhoods are tightly knit. Devoted mother Cora O’Connell has found the journal of her friend Laurel’s daughter—a beautiful college student who lives next door—revealing an illicit encounter. Hours later, Laurel makes a shattering discovery of her own: her daughter has vanished without a trace. Over the course of one weekend, the crises of two close families are about to trigger a chain reaction that will expose a far more disturbing web of secrets. Now everything is at stake as they’re forced to confront the lies they have told in order to survive. 
 Secrets and loss will tear people apart. Set during a single weekend, We Were Mothers shows the unravelling of two families as well as those closest to them, as family secrets come to the surface and threaten everything. That is what you’re expecting from We Were Mothers. Even if it doesn’t quite deliver on the drama. its central themes of secrecy and loss, of hiding behind a façade, are interesting at this particular time in popular culture. Think of Big Little Lies or even Sharper Objects, stories about seemingly privileged women who hide dark and ugly truths behind their shiny front doors. The latter two have stirred debate about everything from motherhood to white feminism and to alcoholism, and We Were Mothers makes an attempt at joining that conversation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite hold the gravitas of its topic, even though it has its own merit.

 During the last few weeks at work there has been a lot of attention on unconscious bias and as I was writing this review I realized I had some unconscious bias myself towards this book filled with mothers, women thinking about being mothers, and children struggling with their mothers. Although Sise does show each woman is more than “just” a mother, it is still presented as something central to a woman’s life. I don’t know if and when I will ever be a mother, so that strong theme kind of kept me away from really appreciating the book as much as I would have liked. On top of that We Were Mothers presents motherhood as something consistently beautiful. No matter how hard things might be or how much a child cries, it is always fulfilling and worth it. For a novel trying to straddle the divide between Mystery and Literary Fiction I would have expected something a little bit more daring.

 Katie Sise has written a range of Young Adult novels and this is her first venture into Adult fiction. Sise’s experience in YA comes through quite strongly at times, especially in the tone of the novel. It is all rather preppy and even if it gets ugly it stays almost PG. We Were Mothers didn’t offer as much suspense or grit as I had anticipated, being at times overly melodramatic when I would have preferred something a little starker. In that sense, it almost feels like a more profound Desperate Housewives at times. Sise hides away some rather astute truths about womanhood, motherhood and loss into her novel, but they don’t get to shine as much as they could as they’re hidden under (at times very campy) plot twists.

I give this novel...

2 Universes!

Overall, We Were Mothers is a quick and engaging read that doesn’t require too much from its readers. Although I enjoyed We Were Mothers, I almost forgot I read it after a month. At the time I was caught up in the twists and the turns of the plot, the drama and excitement of it all, but once the book finished none of it had made a really deep impact on me. Although I’m interested to see what Sise writes next, We Were Mothers is for those readers who want to be engaged but not challenged.

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