By: Yvvette Edwards
Genre:Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Release Date: May 10th, 2016
From the critically acclaimed author of A Cupboard Full of Coats comes a provocative novel of a mother enduring the loss of her child, illuminating some of the most important and troubling issues of our time.
Marcia’s husband, Lloydie, expresses his tender love for his wife each morning by preparing a cup of tea and setting it by her bedside. This routine was part of the wonderful, secure life they had built, complete with a brilliant and handsome sixteen-year-old son, Ryan.
Then the unimaginable happens, and in a single moment Marcia is stripped clean of everything she had presumed was hers for keeps. Ryan, not the kind of boy to find himself on the wrong end of a knife, is brutally murdered. Consumed by grief and rage, she is forced to carry the weight of the family’s pain. She has to assume the role of supporter for her inconsolable husband, who has distanced himself and created a secret life. She must also bridle her dark feelings and endure something no mother should ever have to experience: she must go to court alone for the trial of her son’s killer, Tyson, another teenage boy. As the trial takes apart her son’s life and reassembles it in front of strangers, Marcia, always certain of Ryan’s virtues, finds her beliefs and assumptions challenged as she learns more about her son’s death and of Tyson’s life.
The Mother is a moving portrait of love, tragedy, and survival—and of the aftershocks from a momentary act of cruel violence that transforms the lives of everyone it touches.
It only took about twenty-four hours to get through this book, but a full hour to compartmentalize all of my thoughts. Broken up in a manner of a few days, the reader follows Marcia Williams’ first person narration, as she attends the trial of the boy accused of stabbing and killing her sixteen year old son, Ryan, whom it is perceptibly clear she loved dearly.
The effects of the first person perspective in this book are truly ones that that will grab a hold of the reader from page one. The pain, disconnection, emptiness and pure desperation Marcia William’s character emits at the need to know and understand the reasons behind her son’s abrupt death were almost crippling.
Nonetheless, this book was sad and powerful in such a low-key and abrasive way. Beside the context of this story, I really enjoyed the themes that woven into the narrative: class prejudice, racial stereotyping, parental methods, “suburban” vs. “urban” life styles and neighborhoods, gang involvement and the loss of a loved one from illegal weapon possession.
Though this book is set in the Britain, every single one of these themes mirror the social and political issues and critical topics of discussion we are having in the US today. I really think that readers will also appreciate Edwards fresh and genuine approach of a handling a story about two families of color, from different social classes, different backgrounds and different neighborhoods and, what some may see as, the juxtapositional manner in which we learn about the main characters.
Growing up, my family resembled Marcia’s almost exactly and while I could empathize with the Manley family—as my mother was a single parent with three children—I could not put any of my family members, or myself, in either Tyson or his mother’s shoes. Because I guess, as Marcia puts it, my mother loved us enough, cared enough to stay vigilant.
However, that observation may be a tad bit obscured by the wonderfully raw and unstifling emotional connection and vulnerability of the first person narrative that Edwards builds upon in this book.
It skillfully plays up the two major sides/effects of first person perspective: a direct closeness to the thoughts of the person telling the story and the undertone of doubt to the reliability and accuracy in which the order of events happen, and the emotions or reasons behind the other characters actions.
I really enjoyed the way the author uses the first person perspective to tell the narrative. With the way Marcia’s character unapologetically shifts blame and self proclaimed judgment toward those involved in the court case and her husband, Lloydie, it is almost immediately clear that the reader should take Marcia’s story with a bit of skepticism, at least in the beginning.
I commend Edwards for her in-depth exploration of a mother’s loss of a child and Marcia’s character for her ability to work through the void in her life left in the wake of her son’s death and her ability to regain a sense of purpose for her life following the trial.
With the social issues—racial stereotypes/stereotyping, proper parental structures/practices—the prejudices between classes and the consequences of random acts of violence that this book covers, paired with the steady rise of suspense and anticipation the pacing of this book provides, I think this is a book that everyone will and should be reading.
This is the first book I’ve read by Yvvette Edwards, but I am eager to get my hands on her other book, A Cupboard Full of Coats to read this summer.
- About Yvette Edwards
Yvvette Edwards, the author of the highly praised A Cupboard Full of Coats, has lived in London all her life. She resides in the East End and is married with three daughters and a stepson. The Mother is her second novel.
(Photo by Danielle Acquah)