Ruth Hartland is the director of a trauma therapy unit in London. A psychotherapist with years of experience, she is highly respected in her field and in her office. But her family life tells another story: her marriage has fractured; her daughter has moved far, far away to Australia; and Tom, her teenage son, after years of struggling with being a child who never fit in, has disappeared and has had no contact with anyone for two years. Ruth’s fragile son has always been sensitive and anxious, the opposite of his cheerful and resilient sister. Is he hiding? Is he dead? How did she fail him, and how can she find him after all this time?
Then Ruth is assigned a new patient, a young man who bears a striking resemblance to her own son. Ruth is determined to help Dan, but her own complicated feelings and family history cloud her judgement–and professional boundaries, once inviolable, are crossed. When events spiral out of control, Ruth will have to accept the unacceptable, and reckon with those who truly matter in her life. A brilliant, beautiful story of mothering, and how to let go of the ones we love when we must.
Ruth is a therapist who works in a NHS trauma clinic, helping vulnerable people cope with the traumatic experiences they have had. However, what nobody really knows is, Ruth’s personal life is also vulnerable – her 17-year-old son, Tom, has been gone for almost 2 years. Nobody knows what’s happened to him. Then one day, Ruth sees him in her clinic. Only, it isn’t him, but rather someone who looks strikingly similar.
Ruth’s longing for her son means she doesn’t quite think straight with this mystery man, which leads her down a path full of despair and danger that she’ll wish never happened.
Well damn. This book. I thought this would be a mystery-thriller, but it wasn’t really. It was more of a mystery-drama combined with suspense. A lot of the events in the novel, I felt, were quite deep and meaningful, and centred around the issue of familial bonds. Through Ruth and her family, and some of Ruth’s patients, there was an exploration of the topics of family relationships and the role of a mother, and where psychology plays parts in these dynamics. Some of it was powerful stuff, and really made me think beyond the realm of fictional characters.
I think it’s quite a clever story, and enjoyed that in ways, the book was an ode to mental health services and psychology, which was achieved through multiple character perspectives. Ruth and her anxiety of the world, Tom and his identity, Dan and his issues. There isn’t one character who isn’t explored through the lens of mental states. Furthermore, it clearly illustrated the good and the bad in these clinics, such as challenges the services faces, and the work they do.
I found the narrative of the book kind of like being a fly on the wall, observing the trauma clinic, patients’ appointments and the intimate affairs of Ruth’s life. It’s safe to say, this book was very psychology laden, which in this instance I did enjoy – it wasn’t shoved down the readers throat in any great way to ruin the story.
I liked and connected with Ruth, in both her roles as a mother and a professional therapist. One minute I wanted to shake Ruth to hopefully make her come to her senses, and then I wanted to pass her a tissue as a supporting shoulder. I quite liked all the other characters, and easily mistrusted and disliked those I was meant to.
The mysteries were so utterly compelling, I found it difficult to predict anything. I didn’t see the climax of the novel coming, which was really shocking but satisfying. However, my personal feelings of reading the book, is that I would have liked a little bit more of an explanation regarding Tom. For this to be a perfect 5-star book, I would have needed more exploration regarding exactly how his story ended the way it did. There are still bits that are a mystery, and I don’t like that it wasn’t finished with concrete answers.
I enjoyed this well written story as it kept me engaged with the plot and the characters. I did feel toward the end of the story, that the writing became a little long-winded, as I wanted to skim read some pages, desperate to get on. However, the book promises from the offset that this story has tragedy ahead, and I definitely feel it delivered on that promise. I’ve decided to rate this 4 stars, due to my personal issue regarding the exploration and end of Tom’s story. The mysteries were interesting and the plot was thoroughly enjoyable – I definitely recommend it to those who enjoy slow-burn mystery dramas, because that climax twist really was something!
A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas
Published 4th April 2019
Genre: mystery, general fiction
*Thank you kindly to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an e-copy, in exchange for this honest review.