From the critically acclaimed author of A Cupboard Full of Coats comes a provocative novel of a mother enduring the loss of her child, illuminating some of the most important and troubling issues of our time.
Marcia’s husband, Lloydie, expresses his tender love for his wife each morning by preparing a cup of tea and setting it by her bedside. This routine was part of the wonderful, secure life they had built, complete with a brilliant and handsome sixteen-year-old son, Ryan.
Then the unimaginable happens, and in a single moment Marcia is stripped clean of everything she had presumed was hers for keeps. Ryan, not the kind of boy to find himself on the wrong end of a knife, is brutally murdered. Consumed by grief and rage, she is forced to carry the weight of the family’s pain. She has to assume the role of supporter for her inconsolable husband, who has distanced himself and created a secret life. She must also bridle her dark feelings and endure something no mother should ever have to experience: she must go to court alone for the trial of her son’s killer, Tyson, another teenage boy. As the trial takes apart her son’s life and reassembles it in front of strangers, Marcia, always certain of Ryan’s virtues, finds her beliefs and assumptions challenged as she learns more about her son’s death and of Tyson’s life.
The Mother is a moving portrait of love, tragedy, and survival—and of the aftershocks from a momentary act of cruel violence that transforms the lives of everyone it touches.
The only thing that scares me as a mother is something happening to one of my children. To me, the death of one of my children would be devastating. Had that child been murdered? I've said before that if that were to happen, whoever did it had better hope s/he gets to the police before I get to them.
I found it interesting that I could not tell where the story was set, until some of the British slang showed up in the text. Ms. Edwards adds to the evidence that this kind of story can (and does) happen everywhere.
Marcia's son, Ryan was stabbed to death. He had been seeing a girl, Sweetie, from his school, and another young man, Tyson (the one who killed Ryan) considered Sweetie his property, basically. So, the murder wasn't a racial thing, and I don't think it was over a girl in the sense that Tyson had feelings for Sweetie. It was a pissing match, where the one player took out the other before he could even enter the game.
For me, the main dynamic in The Mother was the differences in the characters' socioeconomic status. Marcia, Lloydie and Ryan were at least middle class. They might not have worn designer or tailored clothing, driven Rolls Royce automobiles and jetted off to Paris for lunch, but they were comfortable.
Sweetie mostly had to fend for herself and started life at a disadvantage. Her father was absent. Her mother was a drug addict, in and out of rehab (in during the action of the story), and she mostly had to fend for herself. When she was born, the mother could not muster the wherewithal to give her a name, and a nurse called the baby "Sweetie", and it stuck. When Tyson 'claimed' her, it was not the sort of thing a girl could turn down. She did not have the back-up Ryan did.
Tyson wanted an alibi and told Sweetie she was going to be it. Then, in court, Sweetie told the truth about when Tyson got to her flat on the day of the murder and she wound up running for her life, basically. And she had a newborn in tow. I think Marcia's and her sister would have stood in that breach for Sweetie alone, but with the baby there was no question that they would help. Props to them for taking a stand.
I've been in the breach a time or two myself and even been there for other when it was needed, so reading The Mother was, at times, hard for me. It even made me a little angry as I reflected that society's 'haves' in large part want to pontificate about the 'have nots' needing to take responsibility for their lives and 'do better'. They just don't tell you that the gates to their walled community are closed and locked down tight.
I want to give a little shout-out to the Tarrant County Women's Center in Texas. I received counseling for depression and assistance in finding a job. If they hadn't been there in my breach for me, I shudder to think where I would be today. And I have tried in the ensuing years to pay it forward. But once, when I told my job counselor that I was also receiving counseling for depression, she told me that I should just stop being depressed. "Gee," I thought, "If I'd have known it was that easy, I'd have flipped that switch years ago!" But then she came through for me in a HUGE way when it came to getting a job with the local police department (transcriptionist) and I am so grateful. (I failed a lie detector test because the tech was suspicious that I knew what 'galvanic skin response' meant. Can we say pre-judging?)
What I'm trying to say, and what Ms. Edwards shows so strongly in The Mother, is that sometimes you just can't be aware of society's ills, you have to roll up your sleeves and jump into the trenches.
I also enjoyed the portrayal of Lloydie (Marcia's husband and Ryan's father). In our society, men are supposed to be the strong ones, the ones that don't 'get all emotional' when life turns sour. Well sometimes that doesn't happen; sometimes the are not (cannot?) be strong. And that's not a bad thing. It doesn't make them weak or 'less of a man'. It's just the way it is. Some times 'real men' do cry.
The Mother reaches out and grabs you from the start. The further in I got, the more I wanted to keep reading. Anyone who has suffered a profound loss, whether it be death of a loved one as in the book or something else, will be able to relate to Marcia's story. I'd really like to donate one to the county library, but will probably buy a copy, because I don't think they would take one that said "uncorrected proof-not for sale" on the front cover. But maybe. One way or another, this book will be available for my neighbors soon.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.)