The Other Mother by Carol Goodman is a psychocoligal thriller tinged with gothic suspense due to the moody setting.
On the run from her abusive husband, Daphne Marist and her baby daughter Chloe, have arrived at Daphne’s new job an as archivist for an author that she secured using a fake identity and credentials, at a mansion in the Catskills.
Determined to be a good mother and to make it on her own she dives into her new role but struggles with the forgetfulness and dark moods that started when Chloe was born.
In her life before, the dark moods, caused by Post Partum Mood Disorder, had been inescapable and kept pushing her to hurt Chloe. That all changes when she becomes friends with the sophisticated and charming Laurel Hobbes who also has a daughter named Chloe. Soon, they are so close and intertwined that their lives start to mirror each other and the intensity shared between the two brings out secrets that are the catalyst to Daphne running away.
Daphne’s PPMD and her fragile hold on reality keep driving the story forward as you feel for her trying to do the right thing and seemingly overcoming the darker aspects of it to protect her daughter. There is also a secondary story that unfolds through letters and documents that Daphne finds while working with the author, the story chillingly mirrors Daphne’s life.
This is book is a good blend of psychological and suspense thriller, and is a must-read for fans of thrillers that don’t need to rely on murders to keep you hooked.
Excerpt from The Other Mother by Carol Goodman
Now I can’t shake the idea that when I reach the house I’ll find an insensate lump of wood strapped into the car seat—or nothing at all. Maybe I left Chloe at the Quickie Mart. Maybe—the thought makes my mouth go dry—she was never in the car at all. I try to reassure myself by going over the details of leaving the house, carrying her out to the car . . . but all I can see is me sitting in the car, writing in my journal, getting ready to go in to get Chloe. I can see myself getting out of the car, going up the front path, but then the picture goes blurry, like a film out of focus. Mommy brain, like Esta said, hormones—but when the film comes back into focus I can see myself walking back down the path holding Chloe’s car seat. I can see myself putting her in the back of the car. So it’s ridiculous to think she’s not in the car.
Still, I call her name. There’s no response.
Because she’s asleep, I tell myself, not because she’s stopped breathing.
Leave it! I tell myself. Once I get an idea in my head, though, it’s very hard for me to let it go. Intrusive thoughts, Esta said, get worse with stress, and I’ve certainly been under a lot of stress these last few weeks. Hiding what I was doing from Peter, applying for the job with Schuyler Bennett without him knowing, then worrying that she would call and tell me she’d changed her mind, she didn’t need an archivist after all. Hadn’t it been too good to be true? The ad had appeared on the library job site as if it had been left there just for me. Archivist wanted for author, must love books and be willing to relocate. Room and board included. And when I found out it was Schuyler Bennett, one of my favorite authors, it really had seemed too good to be true—
Usually that’s because it’s not true. Peter’s voice is so real in the car I almost believe that he’s sitting in the passenger seat next to me. That he’s been there all along. I can even hear what he’d say next. You have to be realistic. No one’s going to give you a job with your background—
But then I see the sign. WELCOME TO CRANTHAM. POPULATION 4,300. A half a mile later there’s a sign pointing to the village center. After the sign for the village, Schuyler Bennett had said, you’ll pass the entrance to the hospital. The turnoff for the house is a mile up on the right.
I see why she mentioned the hospital. The entrance is the most noticeable landmark I’ve passed in an hour. Two brick pillars and a wrought iron arch with the name Crantham spelled out in large black iron letters. The Crantham Retreat for the Insane, it was called when Schuyler Bennett’s father was the head doctor there in the fifties and sixties. Of course it’s not called that anymore. Now it’s the Crantham Psychiatric Center.
Don’t worry, Schuyler Bennett had said when she mentioned the hospital’s proximity to her house, they take a very genteel class of patient there these days—celebrity rehabs, anorexic teenagers, overworked executives. You don’t have to worry that any serial killers will get out and make their way over.
I had laughed, knowing that was exactly what I’d be thinking about from then on. The turn comes up so quickly, I almost miss it. The only sign is a mailbox with a number on it, no name. I cherish my privacy, Schuyler Bennett had said. I ask that you not divulge any details about the job to your social circle.
Social circle? Ha! Who would I have told? The other mothers in the support group? I’d told Laurel, but she hadn’t paid attention. No one knows where I am. As I make the turn into the narrow, unlit drive that climbs steeply upward it occurs to me that if I drove off the side of a cliff right now no one would know what had become of us.