A sociopath finds her style cramped when her equally sociopathic mother is released from prison.
Jess Stranahan knows what it’s like to be raised by the mother from hell. She remembers all the alcohol-fueled fights between her parents. The promises of treats that never materialized. The meals she cooked herself because her mother was too busy chasing her next meal ticket. The shoplifting trips to the local department store. Too bad Jess doesn’t understand that her mother isn’t the only terrible parent in the family. Instead of thanking her lucky stars that she has a kind, if slightly boring, husband in Dan the dentist, as well as three charming young daughters, she brutalizes Amelia, her oldest, using an M.O. surprisingly like her mother’s: placing impossible demands on the child while belittling her for always falling short. Push comes to shove when her mother, who’s been serving time for killing Jess’ infant brother, gets out of jail. Unwilling to tell her family the truth, Jess introduces her mom as a down-on-her-luck aunt who needs a temporary place to stay. When “Aunt Mae” charms her way into the hearts of Jess’ daughters, Jess goes ballistic, plotting to give the old bag what she deserves while showing Amelia the price of disloyalty. An attachment between “Aunt Mae” and an ex–FBI agent named Teddy looks as if it might provide Jess with a way out. But when the affair blows up, Jess decides that she has to take matters in her own hands.
Benzley’s repellent debut makes you want to call Child Protective Services at Chapter 2 and skip chapters 3 through 51.