What Mothers Know by Leslie Lehr (3 out of 5)
I had read a blurb about this book somewhere; I can’t remember where exactly, but I was intrigued. I was not disappointed, although I have some qualms about some parts of the novel. Overall, I thought it was well written, but it delivered some challenges to the cranium that kept me from giving it five stars. Still, a very good read.
The blurbs promise a powerful tale of a mother’s love and a stunning twist at the end. I definitely agree that it’s a powerful tale of maternal love and just what a mother will go through for her child- in this case, her missing daughter Nikki. The stunning twist? I may have been having one of my odd sixth sense clairvoyant moments, but I guessed it. Anytime I guess the end and I’m actually right, it takes a little bit of appreciation off of the book. That was the case here.
Michelle comes out of a coma after a devastating car accident that almost took her life. She remembers nothing, except that her life is forever changed. The young man who was in the car with her dies and she wakes up to accusations, people shunning her, and a lawsuit brought against her by the boy’s parents. Michelle also wakes up to every mother’s nightmare- her daughter Nikki is missing. At first, Michelle believes it’s shame due to her mother’s accident and the fact that everyone is blaming Michelle for Noah’s death, but Michelle begins to remember things and ask questions, not to mention investigate things on her own. Of course, not all is as it seems. Michelle begins searching in earnest for Nikki, damn the consequences. There is a shocker at the end. However, I had a sinking feeling I knew what it was going to be, and it was. i think the problem was that I have seen that plot device in other novels and this book was different than the others that used that same plot device, so I didn’t think it was going to end up in that corner. It did, and that disappointed me, but it also worked on a different level and ended up serving the plot well. it completely made sense in keeping with the theme of the scope of a mother’s undying love for her child, on many different levels.
What made me insane with this book? I really, really, really disliked the supporting characters. I thought Michelle, her son, and Nikki were all very well written and true to their characters with their actions. Everyone else? I wanted to punch them all. Or set them around a campfire in the middle of Yellowstone with Oprah’s newest book club pick. I did NOT like her shitheel husband(moving himself and their son to the other coast due to ‘stress’, please!), her lawyer and his wife spend time grilling her and making smartass remarks, including a great scene at the game where Cathy spends time telling Michelle how her “case”(meaning defending her in the lawsuit) is running their family finances into the ground. If this shit happened in real life, someone would get their ass sued. It’s his job to defend her! Not only that, Michelle was in a freaking coma when this man was assigned her case! Details like this made me seethe. Her friend and former boss who lie and make money off of her story, claiming they wanted the truth to be told. No, they wanted to make money. Despicable characters like that- made the book a lot harder to swallow. I know that is the point, to help build more sympathy for Michelle and help build the plot up to the eventual reveal. However, it just kept me uneven throughout the book. This woman is struggling to overcome physical disabilities from the accident, emotional baggage from not remembering what horrific circumstances led to this accident, and going through a parent’s worst nightmare- the missing daughter, and all these jerks are conspiring against her. Even Michelle’s own mother, Elyse(who reminds me of Dina Lohan meeting Jackie Stallone in a flea market), makes her feel inferior and like dirt. What’s that about? Someone who goes through a traumatic accident needs love and understanding, not pointed digs and emotional abuse. Ugh. Where’s the love?
Second complaint was the fact that they chose to keep Michelle in the dark and NOT happen to mention that her DAUGHTER is missing. Her daughter! Her child! That makes me nuts. Again, since I’m not a fan of any of the supporting characters outside of Michelle and the two kids, then I shouldn’t be surprised, but that’s horrifying. After that zinger, I had to get back onto even ground. That really unsettled me.
The novel veers between dark and darker. Michelle was, at least in my opinion, a strong and determined woman who’s scared shitless due to her inability to remember something that has messed up her “perfect little world”(sarcasm, on my part) and who fights like the devil to find out the truth and recover her daughter from wherever she’s been. I like that Michelle is a fighter. I also like the kids. When the truth comes out, it’s completely the type of thing that made me believe I was reading a Gillian Flynn novel(that’s a compliment to Leslie Lehr, I love Gillian Flynn’s books) for a second there. Some of the dialogue that went on, I had a hard time buying. I had a hard time getting over the husband jetting across the country to WORK when his wife just came out of a coma and came home after a traumatic accident and when she protests, he mentions the insurance and hospital bills! While no doubt a conversation that has occurred in someone’s home in the real world in this economy, it just went to show that the dillhole didn’t give jackshit about his wife’s recovery. That still pisses me off. The book kept reeling me in. Leslie Lehr has a real talent for weaving a great female lead and quite a story behind that lead. I just wish the supporting cast weren’t as likable as sludge. Overall, a dark story with a ray of light at the end.
I really loved the tie-up at the end and that Michelle had closure, resolution, and just the dogged determination to see things through until the end. I really loved the son, the little we got to see him interact with Michelle, and the mother-daughter relationship with Nikki was realistic and touching. The books ends with a ray of hope, which was nice, after most of the book being dark and grim. Definitely a must read for book clubs and those who are fans of Gillian Flynn. Something about Leslie Lehr’s writing style really reminds me of her.