THE OTHER MOTHER
True to style, Carol Goodman's latest thriller is an engaging, nail-biting ride from beginning to end. From the moment the reader enters the vivid, first-person account of Daphne's spiral into postpartum mood disorder to the dramatic climax, the intensity never lets up. In a lesser writer's hands the complex presentation — darting constantly between past and present, protagonist and supporting characters, reality and hysteria — would be unwieldy, but in Goodman's deft hands the swirling pathos remains as well balanced as a Christie novel. Unfortunately, the similarities don't always extend to Christie's signature ability to weave numerous threads of unlikely coincidence into a neatly organized tapestry; by the end, the constant influx of new secrets may leave readers a little off-balance. The Other Mother remains, however, a brilliant play of technique and emotion, and anyone looking for a white-knuckle ride will fly through it with joy.
Daphne Marist is hardly the first woman to struggle with motherhood. After all, her Westchester support group is full of well-coiffed moms with $700 strollers who can't shake the postpartum blues. Daphne, however, finds herself rebuffed by the very group she's supposed to be supported by, her intrusive thoughts seemingly out of even the group leader's ability to handle. Luckily, Daphne's new friend Laurel — brilliant, organized, beautiful — is not only unoffended by Daphne's darker concerns, but even connects more deeply with her because of them. Rapidly, what started as a casual acquaintance cements into an immersive friendship. Between sharing secrets and wine, haircut styles and nightmares, the women discover just how eerily similar they are, even their childhood traumas mirroring in strange ways. Soon, it becomes difficult for even the two women to fully divide their existences; fights start to occur over who said what, who experienced what, whose baby did what. When Daphne realizes, too late, she needs to escape the tangled mess of her life, her prerogative of course is to flee with her daughter — but who, really, is Daphne Marist? Is she capable of escaping Laurel? (WILLIAM MORROW, Apr., 352 pp., $26.99)