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The Second Mother: A Novel Kindle Edition
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"The Second Mother is a tense, riveting story about a woman who flees to a remote island off the coast of Maine to escape a tragic past. Starkly beautiful, the island holds the hope of a new life and a new love but school teacher Julie Weathers finds herself facing dangers she never imagined. Told with Milchman's stunning prose, The Second Mother is a gripping tale of obsession, secrets held close and the dark side of island life. Harrowing and addictive, I dare you to put this book down once you've started." - Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and This is How I Lied
"The Second Mother is a gothic unraveling of a novel, as moody and atmospheric as the isolated island on which it's set." - Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light
"Jenny Milchman is one of the best suspense writers at work today, and The Second Mother is a page turner extraordinaire. Milchman takes the nostalgic daydream of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse and turns it ever so slowly into an urgent nightmare. That the story is set on a remote island off the coast of Maine ― one of the most claustrophobic places a stranger can ever set foot ― is an added bonus." - Paul Doiron, author of the Edgar award nominated Mike Bowditch series
"Milchman owns a Highsmith mastery of emotional depth and psychological tension for all her rich, finely detailed settings. She is a true American regionalist artist. The Second Mother sweeps us away to an eerie island of complex villains, refreshingly women, that will chill your blood while it breaks your heart." - Kalisha Buckhanon, author of Speaking of Summer and Solemn
"With her ever-masterful sense of place and astute psychological insight, Jenny Milchman takes us on a journey from the Adirondack Mountains to a remote island off the coast of Maine, and from the dark depths of grief into the light. This is a harrowing and heartrending story that earns its place in the sun." - Carol Goodman, New York Times bestselling Author of The Lake of Dead Languages and The Sea of Lost Girls
"Rich in atmosphere, expertly plotted, and populated by characters that live and breathe, The Second Mother is as much a portrait of survival and redemption as it is a harrowing deep dive into the secrets and troubles of an isolated island in Maine. Jenny Milchman writes with insight and compassion, creating a vivid sense of place, and masterfully ratcheting up the tension page by gripping page." - Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of The Stranger Inside --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B085F3MKGR
- Publisher : Sourcebooks Landmark; 7607th ed. edition (August 18, 2020)
- Publication date : August 18, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 2613 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 468 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 1728226368
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #486,252 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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The bad news: Everything else. A main character whose actions are too naive to be plausible, cardboard and confusing supporting characters, a ridiculously overheated climax and, most of all, bland, uninflected prose that flattens the suspense and dishonors the richness of the world she's created on Mercy Island, a small island off the Maine coast ruled by an imperious matriarch with cruel efficiency through a thin veneer of noblesse oblige.
Julie Weathers is meant to come across from the first pages as a sympathetic heroine, having seen her infant daughter die in her care a year before. (I admit that I am disinclined to bond with characters who demand reader sympathy without earning it on the page.) In short order, she sheds her all-but-dead marriage and skips off to Mercy Island for a fresh start as the sole teacher at its one-room schoolhouse. But no sooner does she arrive than her privacy is constantly invaded, and strange sounds and mysterious sights plague her. Then she finds herself bonding to Peter, the grandson of the island's matriarch, who is burdened by the Old World family-legacy destiny his grandmother has planned for him.
It's all quite a robust plot, but the problem was that I found much of it hard to believe. For one thing, Julie is something of a ninny, a supposedly smart young woman who takes the job without doing the kind of due diligence even the most doltish of us might undertake — like visiting the island or bothering to find out why the previous teacher left abruptly before her teaching contract had ended. The implausibilities pile up from there, and I won't name them all, but one of the most cringe-inducing is a budding romance with the island's apparently sole bachelor, a square-jawed handsome lobsterman with the ridiculous bodice-ripper-romance-novel name of "Callum McCarthy." And while THE SECOND MOTHER means to keep the reader in suspense as to whether Peter, the troubled boy, is a sociopath in the making or a sweet, sensitive boy suffering needless torment, his behavior throughout the book is so bewilderingly erratic that even when his true nature is revealed, I find it hard to believe the reader will be convinced that he isn't a lot of the other as well.
Most troubling of all is the blah writing. Tone matters, as a matter of art as well as commercially inclined craft, and the writing style is so toneless that it often reads like a Wikipedia page written by someone on the autism spectrum. If you're going to go to the trouble of creating a setting so rich that it becomes a major character, you must honor it with a writing style that matches. In Jenny Milchman's hands, however, Mercy Island and its brooding, tempestuous, gothic nature and people are rendered with Nancy Drew-level tell-don't-show lines like:
"As the ferry churned along, Julie started to shiver, a product of both temperature and the resurgence of grief and doubt."
"The bright sky went fleecy and gray, and a chop kicked up on the previously glassy water, forming triangular, shark-fins of waves."
"The salt-brined odor of the sea filled Julie’s nose as they picked their way across hummocks of seaweed-draped rocks, giving way to a half-moon of shore."
"Julie, by contrast, felt stooped and bent over. She’d had to contend with bullying before, of course, but she sensed that the remedies she had previously relied on might not transfer directly to this island, with its new set of legacies, nested heritages, and unseen undercurrents."
"The island had shed its colorful summer robes, leaving behind a muted landscape."
"Suddenly, she saw the flight from Mercy differently than she had earlier. Instead of the summer people leaving behind an empty shell, a mere husk of island life, they became intruders on an idyll that only the year-rounders knew. Yesterday’s population had been engorged, ballooned like a leech, and now, after a summer of being feasted upon, the island could shrink down to its normal state of peace."
"Men laughing, jeering, insulting one another whether for real or in jest, pounding each other’s backs, raising their hands in a cheer. The vocabulary might be different, and the workaday details, but these were just guys, gathering after a long day to rehash problems, brainstorm strategies, let off steam. And like men everywhere, they were doing it with liquid assistance."
“El, listen, there’s a child at risk here, and I don’t even know who it is. I’m stumbling around in the dark and it’s like there are all these forces amassed and I can’t even see what I’m facing—”
"How people who had survived tough conditions bred of a tough land couldn’t be expected to greet with unalloyed joy an influx that was going to cast Eve out of Eden, introduce new creatures to a roiling, tumultuous stew of the unknown, painting the old, whitewashed sameness with a rainbow of change."
"The pristine homogeneity on Mercy had yet to be complicated by the humps and fissures and crenulations Wedeskyull had tolerated, summoned, welcomed to its fore."
The prissy, pallid prose in A SECOND MOTHER doesn't evoke, doesn't emotionally engage, doesn't imbue the mind of the reader with rich imagery or lingering resonance. You never feel like you're on Mercy Island; you feel like you're being told about Mercy Island by a middle-schooler rushing through a book report. Other books and better writers have done the Maine coast justice — just off the top off my head, I can think of Elizabeth Gilbert's STERN MEN, Stephen King's DOLORES CLAIBORNE and THE COLORADO KID, and Stephen Dobyns' A BOAT OFF THE COAST. Those books found the beating heart of this unique place, made readers feel desolation creep up their spines and isolation creep down it. They brought this compelling place to compelling life.
I've heard it said, by Lee Child among others, that show-don't-tell writing is overrated, that "the man had blue eyes" type prose is perfectly serviceable in the service of a strong story. But when you're determined to make the setting and the senses it evokes as strong in your story as the story itself, it's simply bad craft to treat your prose as colorless connective tissue from one plot twist to the next. Doming so contradicts the logic of one's own established concept. And that's precisely what's happened in THE SECOND MOTHER.
Worst of all is the creeping sense of commercial calculation that came to mind as I read THE SECOND MOTHER. It feels like a cynical bid for Ruth Ware's readership, a pallid attempt to bob along the rising tide of isolation thrillers that are finding success in today's suspense market. The difference is that authors like Ruth Ware have a sense of supple, seductive gothic tone to match their settings and subject. Jenny Milchman, I'm afraid, doesn't seem to. Or, perhaps, worse, she chooses not to. Harsh? Perhaps. But "harsh" also describes the experience of trying to read sentences that seem to work against one's settings and story in the misguided belief that that such blandness is what the audience for such a book would want.
Then again, I read the while thing for some reason — maybe just because I had to know who would live or die and I'm not the kind of reader who allows himself to skip to the end — knowing things weren't going to get any better. And maybe that undermines my argument a little. Or even a lot. In recognition of that, I'll give an extra star to a two-star book.
Julie Weathers has lost her daughter to sudden infant death syndrome and her husband to a marriage that was held together by fear, guilt and alcohol. She attempts to find herself and a life by answering a newspaper ad for a teacher on Mercy Island, off the coast of Maine.
Hoping for a new life, a way to help children in an isolated community, and regain her own perspective after heart break of the worst kind. She finds her efforts block and her life in danger because maybe she has succeed too well. This one will keep you in your chair long after the midnight hour.
The story is good and interesting enough, but there are never any gripping moments of suspense you’d expect in a thriller. There were times reading it became a chore. I became impatient with the slower pace and started skimming through the ending. I enjoyed her other book, Wicked River much more!
Characters felt flat and forced. Especially the main character. Who really just bothered me from the beginning.
There were so many parts that just didn’t make sense that left me re-reading passages to try and figure out what was happening. Which I can probably attribute the the writing style and outlandish plot.
The ending and wrap up was eh in my option as well. Especially compared to the over the top climax.
The romance aspect was not great either. I found it cliche, boring and and empty. So I don’t really know why it was even part of the story.
P.S. You may not want to let your dog out while you’re reading...it doesn’t always end well to be separated from man’s best friend.