In this contemporary novel, a mother’s irrational fear that she might hurt her newborn baby leads to her abandoning the child.
White (Echoes of Family, 2016, etc.) opens her tale as Katelyn MacDonald sits in her daughter’s nursery, suffering severe panic. Struggling with postpartum OCD, Katelyn sees one violent image after another in her mind. Although her daughter, Maisie, is crying in her crib, Katelyn cowers on the floor, afraid to pick her up for fear that she might hurt the child. When her husband, Callum, returns home, Katelyn confesses her worries and begs for help. Unfortunately, he misinterprets the pleas as threats, taking Maisie and barring Katelyn from their bedroom. The narrative then jumps a decade into the future; Callum has become Maisie’s primary caretaker, and Katelyn has not been a part of her daughter’s upbringing. After several difficult years, Katelyn has relocated to Durham, North Carolina, and taken up sculpting as a means of confronting and channeling her anxiety. When her art brings her to a docent program in Raleigh, where she lived with Callum and her daughter, she soon runs into Maisie, a talented student. Maisie believes her mother is dead, and Katelyn does not reveal her identity. As Katelyn, who now goes by Katie Mack, gets to know Maisie through the docent program, she begins to suspect that her daughter has inherited OCD. Rather than leaving town, Katie decides it is time for her to step up and prevent OCD from ruining her daughter’s life the way it did her own. Throughout the absorbing novel, White skillfully shows both Maisie and Katie dealing with destructive and irrational fears (“An old image pounced. One she hadn’t seen in a while. Her hands picking up Maisie…and throwing her down the stairs. The images of harming Maisie had long vanished because Maisie was no longer part of her life. But what if they were back in the same city?”). By taking readers inside the minds of several characters, the author paints a clear and unforgiving picture of mental illness and its ramifications. Although the narrative grows increasingly convoluted as the book progresses, the story feels realistic and relevant. In accessible and engrossing prose, this sentimental tale also explores the struggles inherent in parenting, coupling, and maintaining meaningful relationships.
A challenging and important story about the difficulties of living with mental illness.