Alam is a writer of true empathy ... Mother isn’t big on plot or surprise. It thrills in its attention to nuance, its construction of a full, flawed, loving heroine. Alam’s generous rendering rings authentic. Whatever takeaway one has of Rebecca, a protagonist sure to polarize due to the verisimilitude with which Alam draws her, she emerges with an open, beating heart. It’s partly because Alam knows when to gracefully drive in the knife. He’s wry, but never cruel — confident enough to pinpoint life’s ugliness while keeping hope alive.
Alam poses important questions about race, privilege, and the nature of family ... Priscilla, we sense, sees it differently. This is part of what makes her a far more interesting character than Rebecca, who comes across so vaguely through so much of the book that it’s fair to wonder whether Alam has a clear picture of who she is ... Alam is good at throwing curveballs and keeping us interested, but his hand is heavy in these pages, orchestrating events in too-convenient ways ... Alam, an adoptive father in a multiracial family, is wonderful at observing small children, and there’s something charming about his almost drive-by allusions to 1980s culture ... There are times, though, when the author’s maleness is jarringly apparent ... What Alam is best at, and most interested in, is examining the ways that families evolve, their reality so much more fraught than the images of perfection we’re meant to mimic.
Alam is careful to delineate the exhausting, embarrassing elements of early motherhood’s routines ... But Alam’s mothers are not one-dimensional martyrs. They question themselves; they wonder if they’ve made the right choices. They’re refreshingly human, vibrating with imperfection ... That Kind of Mother’s greatest triumph is its insistence on complicating the rescue narrative of transracial adoption without resorting to dogmatic indictments of its characters.