Before I start this review I should point out that Mumsnet very kindly sent me this book as a thank you for working with them last year. There was no expectation that I would review or share this book. However, I wanted to share my thoughts on A Good Enough Mother.
A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas explores several complex relationships. The book revolves around Dr Ruth Hartland who is a highly respected therapist and director of a trauma unit. The novel explores her connection with her client Dan. As the novel develops we learn that Ruth has lost her way. She lets her history and her relationship with her son influence how she counsels Dan. This has disastrous and catastrophic consequences.
The structure of the novel
Through flashbacks we learn that Ruth’s son, Tom, is missing; it’s since his disappearance that her life has slowly unravelled. Her marriage has fallen apart and her daughter; Tom’s twin, has moved to the other side of the world, Australia. At the heart of this novel is a beautiful tale of mothering. How a mother always wants the best for her child, how she wants her child to be happy. We learn that Carolyn was the confident twin, sociable and outgoing. Tom on the other hand was very different. He struggled with social situations and the demands of school life, and was fragile and sensitive.
A mother’s determination
Ruth is determined to help her son. She wants to encourage him, to help him find himself. Both Ruth’s husband and daughter are frustrated with her actions. Ruth is solely focussed on Tom at the detrimental cost to other relationships. It’s a tale that should act as a cautionary warning to parents everywhere. How parenting can damage marriages. How parenting can completely absorb you. We always want the best for our children but sometimes we have to let go a little. We have to give them the freedom to explore their own interests. As parents we shouldn’t be forcing on them interests that we think will be good for them. It’s also a reminder of how fragile the relationship between a child and their parent really is. As parents we can be very guilty of seeing what we want to see, only looking for the best in our child. As a parent we can be guilty of ignoring what’s right in front of us, of not really listening.
This is a problem that Ruth has with her patient, Dan. She shouldn’t be Dan’s therapist because he reminds her of her missing son. However, Ruth ignores this, she pushes that thought aside, because she sees what she wants to see. She lies to herself. We gradually learn that Ruth has been living one big lie. She has not told anyone at work about her missing son.
Ignoring the obvious
I found myself becoming frustrated with Ruth. How was she unable to see that Dan was not as he appeared? Dan is a character who is unreliable and unpredictable. He is clearly a very disturbed individual. However, Ruth often seems to lose control of the sessions. She almost hands control to Dan. As a reader we feel very wary of Dan. You can’t help but feel there is something dangerous about him. Ruth ignores all of the warning signs and she forgets the boundaries of a patient and doctor relationship. I read the counselling sessions and felt emotionally exhausted. They were gruelling, invasive and intense.
At times this is not an easy read but it’s certainly a gripping one. You will feel emotionally drained by the end of this novel. You will find yourself trying to second guess Dan. Trying to work out his motivations. This is a book that works on many levels. It’s a book about family and relationships. It’s also a thriller and a crime novel.
This novel cleverly explores the different roles we all play in our lives and the lies we are all guilty of telling ourselves. You won’t regret reading this book. A heartbreaking read that will linger long after you have finished the last page.
This book will be released on the 4th April and you can pre-order it from Amazon.