Book review: Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

Saturday, May 1, 2021 Permalink

Although I’m really REALLY tired of books about mothers and children: those going missing, squabbling between couples, parenting issues and the like, this book is very much in my wheelhouse. I hadn’t planned to read the entire thing when I got into the bath with my copy but – for the first time in a long time – I deferred cooking dinner to keep reading.

I read Jackson’s previous book Never Have I Ever and it was similarly themed around motherhood, relationships, secrets and revenge.  For most of this novel I was riveted and and it was really only the direction this book takes that left me disappointed, which (I guess) means Jackson sucked me in big-time.

Book review: Mother May I by Joshilyn JacksonMother May I
by Joshilyn Jackson
Published by William Morrow
on 06/04/2021
Source: Bloomsbury ANZ
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 0062855344, 9781526633859
Pages: 336

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned by her single mother that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected her mother’s fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of: a loving lawyer husband, two talented teenage daughters, a new baby boy, a gorgeous home, and every opportunity in the world.

Until the day she awakens and sees a witch peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.

Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daugh­ters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.

The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.

To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price, making her complicit in a tangled web of tragedy and shocking secrets that could destroy everything she loves. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will lead Bree to dangerous places, explosive confrontations, and chilling truths.

The (rather long) blurb says it all really. The Bree we meet is affluent and confident, but we learn she was raised by a single mother who’d left an abusive partner. It’s obvious that – though happy with her marriage and children – Bree sometimes reflects on the ‘role’ she’s playing.

I really enjoyed the mystery element of this book. Bree and her old friend Marshall get some hints from Robert’s kidnapper and try to track her down, or at least understand why she’s seeking revenge or retribution on those in Bree’s life. Jackson ekes that out brilliantly and I appreciated the way Robert’s kidnapper seems to bond with Bree, though doggedly continuing with her plan.

We learn the kidnapper’s motivation and in some ways that element of the plot is resolved, but there’s obviously more. And the biggest challenge for me was having to view a character in a different light. Perhaps I expect someone to be all-evil or not. It means we (and our characters) are forced to ponder how well we know and can trust people. Can they hide their true selves from us?

This is a nail-biting read by Jackson. It would be a perfect bookclub read because there are some moral or ethical dilemmas which would be excellent debate fodder. Do people change? Can people change? How much do people’s memories become tainted by how they want to have behaved?

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson was published in Australia by Bloomsbury Publishing and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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