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 is exquisitely polite, but Lucy knows, even after marrying Oliver, that they’ll 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…
My friends gave this book such mixed reviews, that I approached it with a bit of apprehension. What I worried about the most was that I won’t be able to engage with the story, that it won’t provoke any strong emotions. Well… For the first half of the book I just hated Diana for her inability or apparent unwillingness to give her children the support they needed. Then, gradually, I began to see the other side of the story and started thinking about my own parents and parents-in-law, our numerous quibbles as well as happy moments nobody can take away from me.
Everyone, no matter how old they are wants their mother’s approval. And everyone, no matter who they are, wants their mother-in-law’s…
Every mother needs to know her children can survive on their own when she is gone. Every mother-in-law finds it impossible to reach a perfect balance in her relationship with her daughter-in-law.
I loved Sally Hepsworth’s style: her catchy metaphors and her attention to detail. The mystery element of the story was utterly gripping, I just kept reading compulsively, even though by the end of the book it was clear that there were so many possible culprits with so many motivations, that it was impossible to guess and it probably didn’t matter. What mattered was how and why you end up being so misunderstood.
In social psychology there is a term: the Actor Observer Bias. We readily attribute other people’s actions to their predispositions/ character. On the contrary, we acknowledge the role of external factors, the situation, the circumstances, in shaping our own behaviour.
In her own mind, Diana’s intentions are good. Okay, sometimes she feels she really knows better, having lived through hardships and having made her life a success. But all she can do is watch in dismay how all her attempts to share her feelings somehow go astray.
Another thing I kept thinking about, which I am not going to go into in this post, is how a suicide affects the surviving family members and how impossible it is to predict its consequences.
This book made me think about my own relationships and the endless potential for miscommunication and misinterpretation of other people’s intentions.
The casual eye doesn’t see everything…
Thank you to NetGalley and St.Martin’s Press for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.