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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Perfect Mother: A Novel

I love true crime, and so a book even remotely based off of a true crime story grips me. This is Nina Darnton's The Perfect Mother

Emma has it all--the best education, a loving family, and a privileged life in small-town Connecticut. Jennifer, her mother, lives through her daughter, and when she receives a middle-of-the-night phone call that her daughter is in trouble while studying abroad in Spain, she runs to prove her innocence. Only nothing is really as it seems; Emma, her perfect, smart, lovely daughter, is accused of murder. Is it even possible that she could be involved, or is at she says--the murdered by was trying to rape her and a stranger burst in and stabbed him?

So this is very loosely based in the Amanda Knox genre of "lovely co-ed studies abroad and gets mixed up in murder and she may not be innocent" genre. I initially picked it up because I find the premise really interesting, and I was rewarded with a novel that looked at things from a different perspective. This is Jennifer's book. It's about the mother of co-ed and not the co-ed, which is what sets this book apart in the genre. What is Jennifer to do? She is one of those women who has given up everything for her children--career, friends, and even her own identity--and she is facing the ultimate in blows.

Now for what drove me to give this book three stars on Goodreads. By a third of the way through this book, I despised Jennifer. Not as in "the character was so well written I hated her and couldn't get enough." No, it was that I hate whiny women who live in a woe-is-me world and choose to be willfully naive, which is how I read Jennifer by that point. There were other places in the book as it went on that the feeling lessened, but overall I had had enough of the protesting mother insisting that her precious baby had to be innocent. Now, let's be clear--the title of the book is The Perfect Mother, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the character is based in what we as a society views as a perfect mother, but I would have liked to see more of a character arc of her realizing that her daughter is not innocent, not in the least. Even as we find out more and more about what a heinous person Emma is, her mother keeps insisting that she is an angel. Not seeking out the good or learning to accept it, mind you--willful denial. That's what drove me bonkers, and frankly, it made Jennifer into a two-dimensional character.

The story as a whole, though, was interesting, and I hung on until the end in order to find out if the truth was ever revealed. It was, and it was exactly what I thought it would be. It's just disappointing that I didn't get more from Jennifer. I really liked the husband, Mark, and the secondary characters as well. (Frankly, including the paparazzi.)

For purchase below.

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