New Book Review: The Second Mother


Rated 2.5 of 5 stars

As my first Milchman novel, I am completely underwhelmed. The pace of this long novel was not enough to keep me engaged and moving briskly through the story. It took me a month to complete as proof and I found myself wanting to to finish it because well, I’d started it. I have a thing about unfinished projects. So let’s see what Goodreads synopsis says:

Julie Weathers isn’t sure if she’s running away or starting over, but moving to a remote island off the coast of Maine feels right for someone with reasons to flee her old life. The sun-washed, sea-stormed speck of land seems welcoming, the lobster plentiful, and the community close and tightly knit. She finds friends in her nearest neighbor and Callum, a man who appears to be using the island for the same thing as she: escape.

But as Julie takes on the challenge of teaching the island’s children, she comes to suspect that she may have traded one place shrouded in trouble for another, and she begins to wonder if the greatest danger on Mercy Island is its lost location far out to sea, or the people who live there. 

My synopsis:

We follow Julie as her marriage crumbles and she’s an incoherent drunk (with the aid of her liquor pouring husband). She is in a downward spiral after the death of her baby. In finding ways to cope, she becomes a recluse and complete mess wrought with social anxiety. She chances a try at a remote job on an island as a teacher and finds that she is optioned for an interview. Although the interview is strange and unconventional, she lands the job and moves with her dog to this remote island, fully separating from her husband. While on this remote island, things are vastly different. There are hierarchal cultures she’s slowing seeing could impact her work with the students. One student in particular from a powerful family seems to gain her attention as a troubled young boy. She ventures to help him and uncovers much more than she bargained for.

The story is very slow to start and not much action or reason in some occasions. I think the writer wanted it to seem eerie, and it was in some instances, but overall, it did not keep the character arch strong enough to keep me reading. I put the book down often because I just didn’t care about the young boy as much as Julie did. I felt she was forcing it and therefore, felt disillusioned with the driving force behind the main character. I also felt there were some drastic actions that I didn’t fully understand (i.e. a suicide out of nowhere) that I didn’t know if it added anything to the story. So while I thought the book was better towards the end, I can’t fully recommend it for the pace and plot execution.

Raging Book Reviews Not Recommended

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