Dec. 11, 2020
Mother May I
reviewed by Andrew Smith
Bree Cabbat grew up with a cash strapped and anxious mother obsessed with protecting her own security and that of her daughter. She’d never met her father, who by all accounts was a piece of work, but as a gifted performer in amateur theater she hoped that this might provide a gateway to the future life she dreamed of. But one day she met a man from a rich family and the mutual attraction was immediate. What followed was marriage, children, and a privileged life in a nice house a few miles northeast of downtown Atlanta.
When we pick up the story, Bree has two school-aged daughters and a brand-new baby boy. Her own hopes of a career in musical theater never got off the ground but it seems that she’s passed her abilities on to her oldest daughter and today she is to attend a rehearsal for a production at her school. Her husband, Trey, a lawyer, is going to be away on business for a few days.
The day started badly when Bree woke to find a what she thought was a witch staring at her through her bedroom window. However, she’d tried to dismiss this thought as potentially the over-active imaginings of a sleep deprived mum. But this was to be a fateful day. Later, as Bree sat enthralled by the action on stage, her sleeping baby is stolen and in place of Robert is a note instructing her to return home immediately and not to inform the police if she wants to see him again.
After a slow start the action had suddenly ramped up tenfold. A panicked search of the school confirms Bree’s worst fears. And hadn’t she spotted a figure suspiciously similar to the witchy woman from her bedroom window in the school car park earlier? With Trey away she is forced to lean on the help a male friend, whose daughter is also in the school production, for support. But what is she to do – to comply and return home might protect her son but shouldn’t she really ignore this and contact the police immediately?
I have to say that I was quite unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster ride I was now to be launched on. There’s a lot of raw emotion here and I was never quite sure how this was all going to end. Added to this there are a number of twists that stopped me in my tracks and made me re-evaluate the ever-changing picture I was seeing. And the sense of urgency, of time passing too quickly, became a real thing for me as I found myself rushing back to the book at every opportunity such was my desire to track events, my brain working overtime trying to assess whether the actions being taken were the right ones.
I’m almost never totally satisfied with the ending in mystery novels and to some extent I’m still evaluating how I feel about this one. What I will say is that there’s a secondary narrative that makes its way into this tale which requires a degree of interpretation, though it’s pretty clear where the author is leading us. How readers react to this will, I feel, color their feelings regarding the outcome.
Either way, I found this to be a well-crafted and gripping story – in fact, it’s one of the most interesting and absorbing books I’ve read in a long time.