Title: The Mother-In-Law
Author: Sally Hepworth
Published: January 29th 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Crime, Mystery
Rating: 4.5 stars
Someone once told me that you have two families in your life – the one you are born into and the one you choose. Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don’t choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.
From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. Diana was exquisitely polite, but Lucy knew, even after marrying Oliver, that they’d never have the closeness she’d been hoping for.
But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.
That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something…
From the bestselling author of The Family Next Door comes a new page-turner about that trickiest of relationships.
‘Someone once told me that you have two families in your life – the one you are born into and the one you choose. But that’s not entirely true, is it? Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don’t, for instance, choose your children. You don’t choose your brothers- or sisters-in-law, you don’t choose your partner’s spinster aunt with the drinking problem, or cousin with the revolving door of girlfriends who don’t speak English. More importantly, you don’t choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.’
Mother-in-laws, you might love them, or hate them! Some are lucky to have a relationship with their mother-in-law that is all smooth sailing, while others have had to negotiate a rocky relationship from the get-go. Sally Hepworth takes this relationship dynamic and transfers it to the pages of her latest novel, The Mother-In-Law. This is a novel that had me wrapped around its little finger, as I become utterly absorbed in the relationship dynamics, intrigue and plot inferences that are made from the first, to the very last page.
The Mother-In-Law focuses on the relationship between Diana and her daughter-in-law, Lucy. From their very first meeting, Diana has been aloof and well mannered, but disconnected. Lucy longs for a loving relationship with her husband’s mother, especially after the death of her own mother, but no matter how hard she tries, Diana pushes her away. Despite Diana having all the time in the world for her social causes, she seems to be unable to connect with her own family, and she is incredibly concerned about them being privileged. Now, ten years after their first meeting, Lucy and Diana’s relationship comes to a head, it morphs into something quite unexpected, with tragic consequences. A suicide note and a murky cause of death marks Diana’s final resting place. The question is, was Lucy, or one of Diana’s family members responsible for her final fate?
The Mother-In-Law rattled me greatly! This was an unsettling and thought provoking read. Most of all, I found The Mother-In-Law to be one completely compulsive and addictive tale. I could not take my eyes off the pages of this novel. It was a battle between this book and I, as to who could sever the relationship, and I tell you, The Mother-In-Law won!
The immediate appeal in this book was the intriguing scenario set up by Sally Hepworth. We have a mother-in-law with a clearly tenuous relationship with her daughter-in-law, a suicide note, an unexplained death and some whopping great family secrets. I have to tell you, the suspense level was maintained for the entire length of this novel. Well done to Sally Hepworth for keeping my spirits high in the suspense department! There were plenty of theories that I was able to toss around mentally as this book progressed, but in the end, I failed to pick up on the final turn of events! Hepworth’s concealment factor was top notch!
Part of the appeal of The Mother-In-Law for me was the critical eye Hepworth casts on family relationships. This is primarily a story of the complexities of a relationship between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law. However, if you look beyond this relationship dynamic, Hepworth explores the other relationships present in the book. She looks carefully into a fragile mother, son and daughter fold. She also examines a husband and wife scenario, in its different guises. From Lucy and Ollie, a couple with a business and young children, through to Nettie and Patrick, a childless couple who deal with infertility, infidelity and mental illness. Then there is Diana and her husband Tom, who she becomes a carer for when he develops a debilitating illness. Each couple is subjected to the strains of modern day coupledom, in its various forms. The insight Sally Hepworth provides is both connective and authentic.
A sub thread that really resonated with me and I am glad Sally Hepworth included this in her novel was the focus on Diana’s past. I won’t say too much on this point, other than it gives the reader a very good clue as to why Diana behaves the way she does. I was a little disappointed though in Diana (and Tom’s) decision to conceal a big secret until it was far too late. I also wasn’t at all sure what the connection and motivation was for Diana to work so tirelessly for her social justice causes. I almost felt angry with her when she chose to support a refugee family rather than her own. Both her children clearly required her support in their own ways. But once this was explained, I came to forgive Diana and I came to see her in a different light altogether.
Hepworth’s turn of the hand is quite brilliant, her character set are personified beautifully and the way she has so thoughtfully crafted this novel in the past to the present, and balanced the points of view of Lucy and Diana, is incredibly astute. This was a surprising read from cover to cover, with plenty of lasting thoughts, that I know I will take on board. The Mother-In-Law comes highly recommended.
‘I could have written more, but in the end, there’s really only two pieces of wisdom worth leaving behind. I worked hard for everything I ever cared about. And nothing I ever cared about cost a single cent.
Such lessons are hard-learned. But now we’ve learned them.’
The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth was published on 29th January 2019 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Mother-In-Law, Sally Hepworth, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Pan Macmillan for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Mother-In-Law is book #10 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge
To help kickstart your 2019 reading, Pan Macmillan are kindly offering 2 lucky readers an opportunity to win a copy of The Mother-In-Law, Sally Hepworth’s latest release. Simply subscribe by email to my blog and leave a comment below on this post to be entered into this great competition! Good luck!
*Competition open to Australian postal addresses only. Closes Wednesday 6th February 2019, 11pm (WST).