Often, I choose review books that are outside of my comfort zone. I’m not sure why I do this, and I’m fairly certain it’s unfair to the books I select. But I just think that getting review books is a great way to try something new without making a financial investment. Plus, I get to alert my readers to new books they might be very interested in. So I don’t feel too guilty at the end of the day.
For the above reasons, I agreed to read and review Lehr’s novel which falls somewhere in the mystery/thriller category – a genre I don’t often read. We begin the story amid a car crash in the Santa Monica Mountains. Eighteen months later, Michelle is finally leaving the hospital to return to her life as mother, wife, and Hollywood producer. Her brain injury was so severe she had to relearn how to walk, talk, and still doesn’t have many memories of that fatal day. What she discovers upon arriving home is that things aren’t as she left them. Her teenage daughter’s missing, a boy is dead, and her husband has grown distant. Oh, and she’s being sued for negligence.
Lehr’s story revolves around Michelle’s desperate search for her daughter amid the chaos that is now her life. The plot is fast-paced and easy to get lost in. There are characters to both love and hate. And the reading experience is overall enjoyable even if the ending is somewhat cliched and predictable. I found Michelle to be a compelling protagonist, particularly in her role as mother. She’s not this pristine, heroic motherly character at all. She’s dirty, rude, complex, and at times hard to root for. Michelle often alienates the rest of her family in her search for Nikki and her motivations can be hard to sympathize with. But I appreciated this because it felt more genuine to me than some squeaky clean suburban housewife. In fact, Lehr does a wonderful job of painting a wide variety of mothers in her story. None of them are perfect, but all of them are people you feel like actually exist.
As far as the writing is concerned, I’m a bit torn. Lehr has talent and writes some really beautiful sentences that have no business being in such a plot-driven novel. So that was nice. At the same time, I felt that the flow was often clunky – like certain exposition was edited out leaving the narrative choppy. I often found myself rereading sections because I felt as if I had missed something. Since I was reading an uncorrected proof, these issues might have been resolved before publication. I also didn’t feel like the men were drawn as well as the female characters. The leading men struck me as very stereotypical with no real development. Her husband was a douche.
I’d recommend What A Mother Knows to anyone who enjoys mystery, memory loss dramas or really well-crafted mothers who are actual human beings. If you aren’t a huge fan of these novels, I’m not sure anything here will change your mind. A good beach read for the upcoming summer months and perhaps a book that would garner some good discussion during a book club meeting. I can just see everyone arguing over whether or not Michelle was a likable mother!
Special thanks to Sourcebooks for the book in exchange for my honest review!