#aww2021 · 2021 Reviews · new release

New Release Book Review: Like Mother by Cassandra Austin

Title: Like Mother

Author: Cassandra Austin

Published: March 30th 2021

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 304

Genres: Fiction

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 3.5 stars

Secrets, lies and crying babies, everyone has a breaking point.

It’s 1969 and mankind has leapt up to the moon, but a young mother in small-town Australia can’t get past the kitchen door. Louise Ashland ­is exhausted – her husband, Steven, is away on the road and her mother, Gladys, won’t leave her alone. At least her baby, Dolores, has finally stopped screaming and is sweetly sleeping in her cot. Right where Louise left her. Or is she?

As the day unravels, Louise will unearth secrets her mother – and perhaps her own mind – have worked hard to keep buried. But what piece of family lore is so terrible that it has been kept hidden all this time? And what will exposing it reveal about mother and daughter?

Like Mother explores what is handed down from generation to generation, and asks us whether a woman’s home is her castle or her cage.

Review:

Cassandra Austin presents Like Mother, a scintillating domestic novel that takes a critical look at motherhood, parenting, relationships, truths and lies. Intense and full of emotion, Like Mother is a stirring disclosure tale.

Taking the reader back in time to an era of both change and set expectations, Like Mother is situated in the year 1969. We meet a new young mother who is struggling with the effects of sleep deprivation, the demands of motherhood and a distant husband. With little help in this era and a lack of knowledge in the area of post-natal depression, Louise Ashland is a mother teetering on the edge. Louise must tend to her household with no support and Louise’s meddling mother Gladys only creates more stress. Things come to head when Louise finally manages to settle her teething baby Dolores in her cot for a sleep, but something happens and Louise isn’t so sure where she left Dolores. Like Mother unfurls Louise’s day bit by bit, exposing secrets, shocking truths and lies. Louise is confronted with a harsh family-based tradition that may break her as a mother and a daughter. Can Louise move on from her family’s past?

Like Mother was a conflicting read for me. It is a tale that presents some very interesting concepts, ideas and situations that I feel do need addressing. I did find Like Mother ignited some pretty heightened emotions in me.

The 1969 based setting was presented very well in this tale. We gain a good understanding of this time of shifting ideas and values. We bear witness to the incredible advances during this age in terms of technology and discovery, as man had just walked on the moon. We also see the impact of women’s rights in terms of birth control due to the introduction of the pill. On the flip side, we see women continuing to fulfill the expected gender roles of the time. Our lead character Louise is a homemaker, expected to hold down the fort while her husband is way as a travelling salesman. These sequences are authentic and vivid, reflecting a time period of our not-too-distant past. We also get a good feel for the emotions and experiences of a typical homemaker during this time. The weight of expectation and lack of support is clear at all points. It saddened me to watch Louise’s demise in terms of the sheer lack of support for a new mother clearly experiencing post-natal depression. What a sad, sad time.

Austin draws in feelings of helplessness, loneliness, overwhelm, fear, personal pressures, public scorn, gossip, the weight of expectation, parenting practices, motherhood, family relationships, marriage strains and gender roles. Like Mother is a full and involving text, that also draws in an element of mystery surrounding baby Dolores and the secrets of Louise’s family. Multiple points of view that shift as Like Mother makes its difficult journey made this story quite challenging. I wasn’t too sure where Like Mother was going a lot of the time, it was quite an elusive story. I’m still trying to work out how I feel about this one.

Like Mother by Cassandra Austin was published on 30th March 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Like Mother, Cassandra Austin, visit here.

*I wish to thank the author for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Like Mother is book #38 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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