A mother’s bond with her child is powerful and inevitably filled with strong emotion. Mystery writer Agatha Christie once stated, “For most women, the love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”
In recent novels, Lisa Scottoline, a mystery writer with an impressive list of thrillers to her name, chooses to explore the nature, breadth, and depth of this unique bond. In particular, Scottoline questions just how far will a mother go on her child’s behalf; are there limits to a mother’s love and sacrifice?
Deanna Josephs of Weymouth is a mother of three children, ages 3, 5 and 6, and has been a fan of Scottoline’s writing for years. While she has read most of her early mystery and legal thrillers, she is particularly attracted to Scottoline’s more recent work, which examines the definition of motherhood and boundaries of mother love.
Josephs just finished reading Scottoline’s new release, “Come Home,” and likens it to another of her Scottoline favorites, “Save Me,” which was published last year.
“I’ve always been fond of novels with strong women characters,’’ Josephs said, “but now I am especially drawn to stories where mothers, like myself, unexpectedly find themselves thrust into situations which force them to discover intellect, strength and resources they never knew they had.”
For Josephs, Scottoline’s novels are a unique combination of mystery and domestic drama.
The latest novel “not only portrays the typical suburban soccer mom as a compassionate nurturer, but as a fervent, powerhouse of a woman who is both parent and sleuth,’’ Josephs said.
In “Come Home,” Jill Farrow is a busy pediatrician and single mother of an active 13-year- old daughter. She has finally managed to put their lives back on track after a messy divorce some three years back, and is engaged to marry again.
But one night, her stepdaughter Abby shows up drunk and distraught, bearing news that her father, Jill’s ex-husband, is dead. Moreover, Abby adamantly believes he has been murdered, despite the police’s assertion that it was a suicide.
Despite the wishes of her husband-to-be, as well as that of a second stepdaughter with anger issues of her own, Jill agrees to consider the evidence that Abby has gathered. Jill will simply not turn her back on the young woman she has always loved, and has raised as her own.
Within days, Abby suddenly goes missing, too. And no one will take the girl’s disappearance seriously, despite Jill’s increasing conviction that it’s not merely a coincidence.
With her new relationship on the verge of being torn apart and her life in peril, Farrow is forced to test the limits of both her investigative skill and her capacity to bring together the people she loves the most. In unfolding the drama, “Come Home” skillfully portrays the searing emotional difficulties that can accompany stepfamily relationships.
“Some readers will see ‘Come Home,’ as merely another thriller. But I think Lisa Scottoline raises an important question of whether there is ever really an expiration date on a mother’s love for her child,’’ Josephs said. “Does divorce, separation, remarriage ever change a mother’s instinct and obligation to love, comfort, and protect a child?”
She added, “In today’s society, the blended family is very common and inevitably complicated. And Lisa Scottoline’s novel challenges us to at least question what is good parenting in these changing times.”
Josephs says the issue of maternal love also arises in Scottoline’s 2011 novel, “Save Me,” in which a woman has to choose whether to rescue her daughter during a school fire, or guide a little girl who has been bullying her daughter to safety.
“In my mind, ‘Save Me’ subtly raises the difficult issue of whether a mother’s instinct to protect her child can result in behavior that goes too far, or becomes so myopic, that it borders on immoral,” she said.
There’s no question that as women we sometimes find ourselves mothering without a map, and Scottoline’s recent novels couldn’t be more topical in exploring the dilemmas faced by families stretched to include ex-spouses, half-siblings, and stepchildren of all ages. And while we are inclined to turn to friends for parenting advice, it may be that books, even fictional stories, may offer some validation for personal choices women are making.
“I think all women will relate to Scottoline’s heroines as they struggle to juggle relationships, career, and motherhood,’’ Josephs said. “But most of all, her novels will certainly leave you in suspense wondering what family turmoil is really lurking beneath the carpool line.”Nancy Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org