Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth


THE MOTHER-IN-LAW has been on my radar for a while but I saw a couple reviews that made me think I wouldn't like it. When it popped up in a Little Free Library that I frequent, though, I ended up grabbing it. I don't know who owns that LFL but they keep stocking woman-fronted mysteries in there with books that have been slammed by Goodreads that I end up liking, so even though books revolving around marriage and motherhood usually don't appeal to me, I thought why the fuck not?

This a dual POV book about Diana, the mother in law, an exceptionally well-off woman who has two married children and runs her own charity. The other is Lucy, her daughter-in-law, who is married to Diana's older child, Ollie. Two portraits of the women rapidly emerge-- Lucy as the spoiled and slightly immature wife and Diana as the long-suffering and unkind MIL-- but both of these portraits end up warping and changing over the course of the novel in some really interesting ways, which become even more interesting when Diana's reported suicide starts to look more like murder.

This ended up being a much more emotional read than I expected. On a sadness scale, it compares to that scene in Knives Out when you find out the truth of the patriarch's death. But like Knives Out, THE MOTHER-IN-LAW has a happy, hopeful ending that keeps the book from being too miserable. Sometimes it did end up feeling a little schlocky, and there was obvious emotional manipulation going on from the writer's end, but on the whole, I felt like Sally Hepworth did a good job portraying two starkly different women's lives who end up having more in common than they thought.

4 out of 5 stars

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