A Good Enough Mother, by Bev Thomas

Six stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Bev Thomas, and Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

The title and premise of this novel caught my eye from the outset, as Bev Thomas pulls on the heartstrings of the reader while offering up a mysterious tale of love and loss. Ruth Hartland is a psychotherapist at a highly specialised facility in London, handling severe cases of trauma. Her professional life is full of accolades, both those that adorn the walls and the high regard in which she is held by those around her. However, there is something deeper and darker that she shares with no one; the disappearance of her son, Tom. Ruth has waited two years for something, but there is no news, not even a notice that he may be dead or hiding away from her. Ruth’s marriage is being held together by a thread and her daughter has made herself scarce. Could the bubbly exterior soon falter as Ruth’s inner self is riddled with trauma of its own? When Ruth agrees to take on a new patient, she is soon left with a sobering realisation that Dan is so very much like her disappeared Tom. Can Ruth keep her professional boundaries high enough to be able to help him without sucking Dan into her own drama, replacing the missing Tom with his new-found presence? Much will be revealed in this piece that pushes the limits of a mother’s love with a need to come to terms with loss in a therapeutic manner. Likely of interest to those who like a deeper and more emotional mystery, though I struggled throughout to make sense of much.

One should never judge a book by its cover. While this is used primarily about criticising a book deserving of one’s time, I seek to offer up that not all books that seem to be ‘unputdownable’ are just that. I struggled from the outset with Bev Thomas’ novel and never felt that I truly found my way. Meandering throughout, I picked up only the barest of literary crumbs in order to formulate some semblance of order with this book. Ruth Hartland proved to be the struggling protagonist who wants nothing more than to appear placid while she tears apart her insides, seeking something to right her way. Be it the loss of her son, alienation of her other family, or that she cannot practice what she preaches, Ruth is the epitome of hypocrite and it shows from the reader’s omnipotent perspective as they read. Others who grace the pages of the book prove to be interesting secondary characters, pushing the narrative to its limits while offering the story some flavour, though I still found it somewhat difficult to navigate. Perhaps it was the style of writing or that I could not connect to the characters from early on, but I struggled repeatedly to find my groove in this book. Thomas has no issue stringing together ideas and placing them in a seemingly cohesive manner, but I found myself floundering to make sense of the story, the nuances found within the narrative, and could not affix myself to any of the characters. I struggled to care throughout, making this read all the more tiresome. While I see others found nothing but praise for the piece, I suppose I could have missed out on what many others found. Alternatively, Thomas may just have failed to hook me in my efforts to ride a wave of sensational books. Either way, it’s a toss up for the curious reader.

Kudos, Madam Thomas, for seemingly winning many others over with this piece. I suppose there have to be those outside the trend to balance things.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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