‘Other Mother’ goes to dark places
Best-selling author Carol Goodman skillfully works postpartum depression into the chilling “The Other Mother” that has strong gothic echoes, with nods to Daphne du Maurier’s novel “Rebecca” and the film “Gaslight.”
Goodman well structures “The Other Mother” with an unreliable narrator and details that, on the surface, seem ordinary but misconstrued can become sinister.
Daphne Marist became fast friends with Laurel Hobbes in a support group for women suffering from postpartum depression. The two have more in common than a shared mood disorder and living near each other in Westchester, New York. Both named their daughters Chloe, although Laurel uses an umlaut, both are married to older, controlling men, both often feel powerless and are a bit obsessive. Soon both are dressing alike and even carry similar diaper bags.
Then Daphne leaves her home and her husband, taking Chloe with her. Daphne has accepted a job as a live-in archivist with children’s author Schuyler Bennett, a near hermit whose Catskills mansion borders a psychiatric institution. It is a dream job. Schuyler is Daphne’s favorite author and the job includes a small apartment and child care for Chloe. The only wrinkle is that Daphne got the job using Laurel’s name and background. While working through Schuyler’s papers, Daphne also begins to categorize those of the author’s father, Morris Bennett, a famous psychiatrist who ran the asylum.
Along the way, Daphne becomes obsessed with the case of other young mothers who suffered from postpartum depression, including one who is still hospitalized at the institution, 45 years after claiming she abandoned her baby.
But is that really what is happening in “The Other Mother?” Goodman keeps the reader off kilter as she plays with the identity of the mothers and what is really happening, and why. Goodman never delves into flights of fancy but keeps “The Other Mother” grounded in reality. Each twist is chillingly plausible.
Goodman’s affinity for the dark psychological plot excels in “The Other Mother.”