Book Review – Mother by Hannah Begbie

Her love for her daughter is everything

Her love for him is deadly

Cath had twenty-five perfect days with her newborn daughter before Mia’s deadly illness was diagnosed.

As her life implodes, Cath’s despair drives her to a parental support group where she meets a father in a similar situation, the dangerously attractive Richard – charming, handsome and adamant that a cure for their children lies just over the horizon: everything Cath wants to believe.

Their affair – and the chance to escape reality – is unavoidable, but carries catastrophic consequences: the nature of Mia’s illness means that Cath’s betrayal endangers not just her marriage but the life of her baby.

Can she stop herself before it’s too late?”

Catherine is a blissful mother for 25 days with newborn Mia and doting husband Dave, before the family crumbles under the deadly diagnosis of cystic fibrosis. Celebrations are long forgotten as the harsh reality of the incurable disease sinks in. After withdrawing completely from friends and family, Cath finally steps out of her dark depression into a charity support group, where she meets Richard. Richard has a 15 year old daughter affected by the same condition. He’s a bit of an expert who is championing for treatment and cures, so Richard is exactly what she needs – a dad who is upbeat and positive about the future, with a daughter who is doing just fine despite the illness. They tumble into an intense affair despite the fact that it’s dangerous for parents of children with cystic fibrosis to even touch, as cross contamination could be harming both their children. Putting the lives of both their children at risk, Cath tries to come to terms with her guilt and despair – as her identity as wife and mother is torn apart.

There are some twists and turns along the way that will keep you turning the pages. Whilst this review is spoiler free, if you’ve read the book and would like to discuss it, you can include spoilers in the comments and I’ll respond!

Cystic Fibrosis Resources:

Unfortunately I really didn’t like the main character, Cath.  She is clearly depressed and suffering from anxiety, OCD and possibly other mental health issues (armchair psychiatry!) but refuses help from every single person who ever offers. It’s not that the support isn’t available to her, but that she’s so self absorbed and determined to spiral alone that she refuses it. This may be an accurate reflection of how some people deal with the shock, but it’s a depressing read. Above all else I keep being reminded that she is a terrible mother, putting her daughter in danger. She is a terrible wife, cheating on her husband, pushing him away and ignoring his needs. She is a terrible lover to the man she’s having an affair with, so focused on herself that I feel like she was using him because she wanted to punish herself and feel more guilt, without thinking about the fact she was destroying his family in the process. She is mean and rude to her mother and her sister and just all around comes across as the type of person no one wants in their life… a brutal betrayal of a woman hitting rock bottom and dragging everyone around her down with her. I guess it shows that she’s human, flawed.

Mother is dark and depressing throughout, populated with broken characters who will never be able to be put together again. It’s about broken families, broken romance, broken relationships and broken lives – how people deal with them and whether anything can be salvaged in the end. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out whether there is any peace or recovery for any of the characters involved.

I feel like I closed Mother educated and far more aware of cystic fibrosis, but I also came out of it feeling terribly sad, so not a read for anyone who’s feeling down to begin with.  Knowing that the author, Hannah Begbie has a child who suffers from cystic fibrosis gives it a very authentic and honest feel and the amount of information about cystic fibrosis was my favourite part of the book – although going in I certainly hadn’t intended to increase my medical knowledge!

At it’s heart, Mother is a book about darkness, depression and despair more than it is about motherhood or parenting. It is a brutal book, informative, emotional and thought-provoking. I’m giving it four stars for a well-written, unique read, but whether I’d recommend it depends a lot on what you’re looking for and your personal situation.

You can purchase Mother by Hannah Begbie on Amazon or at your local book store. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback and Audiobook. I’d like to thank the publisher, Harper Collins, for providing me with an ebook to review. Read more about my book reviews and their format!

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