... taut, intelligent psychological thriller that will reassure just about every anxious mom who reads it that it’s okay to mess up a little with your kids ... Thomas plots her twists and turns so ingeniously (with a slippery scattering of red herrings) that even veteran suspense readers will be floored. For all its narrative inventiveness, however, the greatest appeal of A Good Enough Mother is its sharp rendering of the “active listening” that goes on in Ruth’s therapy sessions and supervisory meetings with colleagues. These conversations typically unfold haltingly over several pages, and when psychological breakthroughs occur, they’re every bit as startling as the thriller revelations ... Thomas joins the ranks of first-rate masters of misdirection who delight in artfully distracting us readers from the terrible truths planted right before our eyes.
Clinical psychologist Thomas’ debut is a compelling, ingenious novel about grief, love, the healing process, and what it means to mother. Realistic characters and a dynamic family relationship will have readers mourning with Ruth along her journey. The whole book is absolutely engrossing, but with the final unexpected twist, Thomas brings it home with a boom.
...[a] taut debut thriller, peopled...with characters unusually alive in their psychological complexities ... Part psychological study and part psychological thriller ... Thomas’s prose is clear and spare, without unnecessary embellishment. The book does have flaws, though. Some characters are more vessel than human, there for Thomas to explore various psychoanalytic theories. Sometimes, too, the novel feels dangerously close to a therapy lesson—not what we’re here for. Certain parallels between Dan and Ruth’s stories are also forced. Still, it’s a gripping debut that makes you wish more clinical psychologists would become novelists.
The insider’s view of the therapist/patient relationship in A Good Enough Mother is compelling and the escalating tension of the novel is rooted in the violation of professional norms that Thomas–a former therapist herself–lays out clearly. Thomas doesn’t exonerate Ruth, and the lurching emotional roller coaster here draws us into a character whose very human frailty and fallibility are all too recognizable. That recognition may be the most chilling thing of all.
Bev Thomas, herself a psychologist, paints a sympathetic portrait of a grieving mother—one with no body to bury—and the choices she makes just to survive. A Good Enough Mother is both a heartbreaking story of love and loss and a hopeful meditation on the winding path to healing.
Hartland’s treatment sessions are small masterclasses in the art and practice of therapy; and Hartland is portrayed convincingly as a practitioner who knows very well when she has crossed the line but cannot stop herself. This should be enough to engender tension. However, Hartland’s self-centredness drains some of the reader’s sympathy and therefore reduces the suspense ... Even the climactic violence of this well-informed story about obsession reaches us at one remove, with the central character, somewhat unsatisfactorily, obstructing the view.
Thomas expertly mines her own extensive experience as a psychologist to paint an intricate portrait of a mother in crisis who blames herself for her son’s pain. Ruth’s interactions with Dan and other patients are realistic and insightful, and Thomas’ focus on society’s expectations of mothers as well as the pressure they put on themselves will resonate. Ruth’s fierce love for Tom gives the narrative its beating heart, and the conclusion strikes a hopeful note and avoids an overly neat resolution. A suspenseful and emotionally stirring debut.
Thomas, herself a former clinical psychologist with Britain’s National Health Service, hooks the reader with Ruth’s unblinking dual narratives ... Thomas melds astute psychological insight with powerful storytelling in this moving thriller.