Review by Booklist Review
Generations of conflicted mother-daughter relationships culminate with one unhappy woman and her possibly dangerous daughter in Canadian writer Audrain's unnerving, cannily structured debut. As the book opens, thirtysomething narrator Blythe stands outside the home of her ex-husband and his new wife, looking in at their life. Most of the novel is directed from her to him, giving her side of their shared story, while shorter vignettes look back at her childhood and at the lives of her disturbed mother and suicidal maternal grandmother. Feeling unloved by her mother, who left the family when Blythe was 11 and never looked back, Blythe fears having a daughter of her own. When she gives birth to Violet and is unable to bond with her, her fears multiply. While she fiercely loves the son born a few years later, her relationship with Violet remains fraught, and when a tragedy takes place, it cannot recover. Both an absorbing thriller and an intense, profound look at the heartbreaking ways motherhood can go wrong, this is sure to provoke discussion.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Growing up as the latest link in a long chain of toxic mother-daughter dyads, aspiring writer Blythe, the narrator of Audrain's emotionally devastating debut, has no desire for parenthood herself, until she falls for gentle, supportive Fox Connor, who can't imagine not having kids and convinces her otherwise. Daughter Violet's birth three years later starts the clock ticking toward the implosion of the couple's marriage. In the eyes of Fox, who is away most of the day at work, Violet's an angel; to exhausted and overwhelmed Blythe, there's something fundamentally wrong with the baby. Or is there? As Blythe worries over the years that Violet lacks normal feelings of empathy and affection, concerns that Fox keeps dismissing as only in her head, things continue to deteriorate until, desperate not to lose Fox, Blythe becomes pregnant again. Son Sam's arrival blindsides her: to her astonishment, she loves Sam ecstatically. A tragedy precipitated by seven-year-old Violet is by no means the end of the twisty, harrowing ride to the dark side of motherhood Audrain pilots so skillfully. This is a sterling addition to the burgeoning canon of bad seed suspense, from an arrestingly original new voice. Agent: Madeleine Milburn, Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency.
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Review by Library Journal Review
DEBUT Three generations of women deal with motherhood in this dark debut. Blythe's mother, Cecelia, left when she was 11 years old, and Blythe decides she shouldn't have children, as Cecelia wasn't a good role model. Their toxic relationship pales in comparison with Cecelia's relationship with her mother, Etta. Fox, Blythe's gentle husband of three years, persuades her that it is time to have a baby. But Blythe can't connect with their daughter, Violet, although Fox is immediately enamored. As Blythe sinks into depression, Fox is convinced that she just doesn't love the baby enough. Blythe sees behavioral issues in Violet that increase as the girl starts school, but Fox turns a blind eye. Then Blythe has a son, Sam, and her maternal feelings for him are real and deep. Things still aren't good with Violet, though, or with the marriage, and a tragic accident causes Blythe and Fox's relationship to implode. This is not your typical tale of motherhood, and the superlative writing results in a gripping, unforgettable story. VERDICT For readers who enjoyed the darkness of Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, the Serial Killer, Ottessa Moshfegh's Eileen, or Joyce Carol Oates's Jack of Spades.--Stacy Alesi, Eugene M. & Christine E. Lynn Lib., Lynn Univ., Boca Raton, FL
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A finely wrought psychological study of motherhood and inherited trauma. Blythe stands outside, watching a perfect family as they move through the small joys of their Christmas Eve preparations. She has come to deliver her written story, one that occasionally includes flashbacks to her mother's and grandmother's lives, so that she may explain to this family--her former husband, his second wife, their child, and, most of all, Blythe's own daughter--what went wrong. The book that unfolds is this novel, and while it begins with a college meet-cute between Blythe and Fox, it truly begins with the story of Etta, who "tried very hard to be the woman she was expected to be" but battled depression that eventually led to suicide, and her daughter, Cecilia, who left altogether when Blythe was 11. Interweaving memories of her life with Fox and their daughter, Violet, with the memories and voices of these two women is meant to establish a pattern: Because she comes from a line of struggling mothers, Blythe herself could only expect to struggle as a mother, and struggle she does. Violet is a difficult baby who becomes a troubled child, but Fox sees little evidence of her problems and blames Blythe for not loving her enough. When they have a son who dies in infancy, in a terrible accident, their marriage falls apart. Blythe continues to worry for, and even fear, Violet, and then her loneliness drives her to befriend Fox's new wife. Her delivery of the pages of her story on that frosty Christmas Eve is meant as both repentance and warning; she fears that Gemma and Fox's son could be in danger from Violet. A novel written for and about mothers but not for the faint of heart; it offers no easy answers. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.