The New Mother
June 1, 2023

Book Review

The New Mother

reviewed by Sandra Hoover

The New Mother, author Nora Murphy’s sophomore novel, explores the bewildering world of new motherhood – the joy, wonder and overwhelming love… along with the long, sleepless nights and hormonal mood swings that threaten the sanity of overwrought mothers with fussy, colicky babies who refuse to be consoled.  While most mothers can sympathize, it’s the questionable decisions the protagonist makes going forward that sets the dire tone for this domestic thriller.

Natalie Fanning is a new mother hanging on by a thread at the end of her rope and desperately seeking answers to her baby Oliver’s never ending vocal demands.  Her growing resentment of her husband Tyler’s ability to continue his career and life as normal increases as her despondency escalates.  Natalie’s forced to give up a satisfying career as a lawyer for a life of isolation enduring endless days and nights of breastfeeding and dirty diapers with a wailing baby.  Determined to meet high family and societal expectations, Natalie refuses offers of help choosing instead to become a martyr of sorts.  In her loneliness and despair, she turns to the stay-at-home dad Paul Riley, who lives down the street, for help and companionship which he’s more than happy to render.  Paul’s own resentment of his wife Erin, the family breadwinner, is growing as she is pushing Paul to return to the work force after ten years as a stay-at-home dad to their ten year old daughter. What begins as a harmless friendship between Natalie and Paul quickly morphs into something uglier and darker – something Natalie fails to recognize in her sleep deprived, zombie-like state.  It seems Paul has become her lifeline . . . but at what cost? 

The New Mother is a chilling domestic thriller that shines a spotlight on the many challenges of being not only a first time mother, but one suffering from undiagnosed postpartum depression or psychosis which is obvious only to readers.  Murphy excels at characterizations and building empathy for characters like Natalie.  The strong support cast is also well defined contributors to the validity of this story.  While the pace is rather slow, I believe it’s the author’s intention to afford readers time to buy into the utter misery and hopelessness felt by Natalie.  As the story unfolds, her downward spiral and increasing dependency upon Paul creates a malicious undertone that prevails throughout fueled even more as Paul’s intentions become clearer to readers.  While little is left to the readers’ imagination when it comes to the true villain’s intent and motive in The New Mother, knowing doesn’t prevent readers from experiencing the trepidation of a perilous journey as they watch a train wreck waiting to happen.  

Nora Murphy’s The New Mother is an unique, eye-opening domestic thriller that’s sure to touch a chord with mothers and caregivers everywhere.  The author does a fantastic job highlighting the many challenges mothers face adjusting to the demands of motherhood.  Fans of domestic thrillers will enjoy this well-developed story.

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