Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Other Mother

  The Other Mother
Author:  Matthew Dicks
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Press. 2021. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1250103460 / 978-1250103468

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "This mother is not my mother."

Favorite Quote:  "When Dad died, he took all his memories with him. Everything I didn't know about him - every question never asked and every story never told - can never be known now that he's dead. It's like losing your only copy of a book before you finish reading the story, except it's the only copy of the book ever. There's no way to get those pages back."

Capgras delusion is a psychiatric disorder in which a person believes that someone in their live - a family member, a friend, or even a pet - has been replaced by an identical person - an impostor. This condition manifests itself in thirteen year old Michael Parsons. His father passed away suddenly.  He lives with his mother, his two younger siblings, and the new man in his mother's life. As you may guess, his relationship with the new man in his mother's life is tenuous at best.

He believes that his mother is not his mother, but a whole other person. Someone who looks and acts like his mother but is not his mother. He is the only one who sees it, and he cannot tell anyone else. No one would believe him anyways.

On the one hand, Michael is depicted as a responsible young adult, who is often left in charge of his two younger siblings. On the other hand, Michael is a boy still recovering from the devastating loss of his father. He meets regularly with his guidance counselor who attempts to help him navigate this time. He appears not to have many friends, until he meets his neighbor. This young woman believes him and manages to research and identify the condition. What she cannot do is convince him that his delusion is not real.

As the book winds through Michael's thought, it is revealed that Michael harbors a secret of his own - one that might perhaps explains the enormous pressure on his young mind and heart.

Learning about this condition is a fascinating side effect of reading this book. The characters and the story are touching. Given Michael's age and given the friendship with the young woman next door, most of this book has a very middle grade / young adult feel. It depicts the social angst of school, the shyness of navigating a new friendship, the discovery of a friendship that perhaps might be more, and all the teenage emotions that go along with that. The one I think I really appreciate is the positive way in which this book depicts the relationship between Michael and his guidance counselor. It is so important for children and families to realize the resources that exist to help in the challenging times and to depict the roles in a positive light.

Part of me wants to reach in and give Michael a hug. Part of me wants to know what the adults in his life are doing. The ending is about what you might expect it to be. However, I don't think life is quite that simple or that neatly and quickly handled. The ending does not seem to address the diagnosis implied in the premise of the book. It is left on an assumption that it will be addressed. I suppose I wanted more after the happily ever after to hit the reality of the challenges Michael and his family face moving forward. To some extent, the story and the healing begins with the ending, and it would be good to see where that goes.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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