You Should Have Told Me
reviewed by Valerie J. Brooks
valeriejbrooks.com | Goodreads
Konen has written an unusual domestic thriller that puts a new mom with postpartum depression at the center of murder, marriage secrets, and a missing husband.
Janie, a new mom, has changed course dramatically. Once an up-and-coming professional, she fell in love, got pregnant, and suspiciously quit her job when she could have taken family leave. Now a full-time, breast-feeding, sleep-deprived new mom to Freya, she’s at her wits’ end. Her devoted partner and baby-daddy Max tries to help her, but she is in such despair that Max can’t seem to help enough.
One night while Max cares for little Freya so that Janie can sleep, he disappears. Janie knows something terrible has happened to him because he’s been a devoted father and would have never left them, especially with Freya in his keeping. Janie is frantic, yet Max’s parents convince her to hold off from calling the police. Janie does, but she cannot understand why they don’t seem as concerned as she is. Janie wonders if they are afraid of bad publicity. Yet, even Max’s best friend Liana doesn’t seem as concerned as Janie.
But that changes when a woman is murdered at a nearby bar, and the police come calling. It seems that Max is the number one suspect. As secrets unfold and Janie’s PPD worsens, everyone comes forward to help her—Max’s parents, Liana, Janie’s best friend Molly, and others from work and college. Unfortunately, Janie can’t cope with their offers of help as she’s been independent and self-sufficient, a characteristic that pushes others away. She also can’t cope with her own suspicions of what might be happening, although she holds onto the belief that Max could never kill anyone. While Freya demands mommy’s milk every hour, Janie’s attachment to a baby monitor and the overzealousness of doing the right thing as a mom cause her to doubt her mothering abilities. She also keeps a terrible secret that eats at her. Things could not get worse. But they do.
Konen’s understanding of new motherhood comes from her own experience which went viral on Twitter and was written about in Vogue magazine. Konen keeps the story tense and scary while showing the realities of a body and brain affected by postpartum depression (PPD). Although some of the specifics and details of PPD and the unending needs of a new baby become repetitive and could have been cut back somewhat, Konen does an excellent job of making a cranky and unsure mother sympathetic. Janie loves Max, but does she love Freya, a child who has brought her to tears, self-doubt, and fear?
The title works on many levels about what should have been told—between the couple and the parents, among friends, and to the police. Konen uses these secrets to ratchet up the suspense as Janie goes careening through each page-turning twist, trying to save Max while caring for a demanding baby. We root for the couple because they love each other. The novel especially presents very human, sympathetic characters with justifiable motives for what they do while making major mistakes out of love. Although classified as a thriller, the ending and the killer’s identity bring the story to a finale that usurps expectations for the thriller genre but works for domestic suspense.
Thanks go to Penguin Group Putnam and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book.
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