The Mother-in-Law, Sally Hepworth

Review Written By
Andrea Thompson

Lucy, like most women on the precipice of marriage, has spent some time considering not only what her new life might be like when she becomes a wife, but also how it might be to become someone’s daughter-in-law.  In order to achieve her happy-ever-after with the lovely Oliver, Lucy must first win over the formidable Diana. 

Diana is one of those cool, calm and collected types who has the security of a long successful marriage and enjoys the high regard of her peers.  Diana is assured in her opinions, confirmed in her altruistic endeavours, and to Lucy, determinedly distant.  Negotiating a path between maintaining a respectful relationship with her in-laws whilst not comprising her own self, Lucy finds her mother-in-law difficult to grow close to.  Diana seems oblivious to what the incremental load of disregarding Lucy’s opinions and shredding her decisions has on Lucy’s confidence as a parent and also as a wife. 

Ten years on, the unexpected death of Diana simply doesn’t make sense to Lucy.  A suicide note is found, but the following autopsy suggests another possible cause of death.  Diana’s strong personality and hard line parenting certainly wasn’t universally admired.  Perhaps someone close to her had decided that enough was enough.

Melbourne based author Sally Hepworth proves here again with THE MOTHER-IN-LAW to have that enviable ability to take something that we always have had our deepest suspicions about and to spin an absorbing novel around those concerns.  The intricacies and pitfalls of ‘marrying in’ to a family are immediately identifiable to us all, and this is a readership that is being increasingly exposed to drama novels that are not just the complexities of familial relationships, but about their dangers.  We are drawn to works that present dramatic possibilities sourced from our known every day existences.

In a thriller novel you might describe what you read here as a slow burn, but let’s say instead that there is an immediate and sustained investment in the outcomes of each character we meet in THE MOTHER-IN-LAW.  I really NEEDED to know what had happened to Diana, and how the relationship between two women who would never have chosen to be friends came to be such that one ten years later was mourning the death of the other.

You’ll polish this novel off in a day so clear the house of interruptive family members and make sure there are plenty of fresh coffee beans ready to be murdered for the session.  Thank heavens the current reading climate is all set for novels that can offer up intrigue, warmth and resolution all in the one well written package.

THE MOTHER-IN-LAW is the fifth novel for Melbourne based author Sally Hepworth.

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Summary from publisher:

Someone once told me that you have two families in your life - the one you are born into and the one you choose. Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don't choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.

From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm's length. Diana was exquisitely polite, but Lucy knew, even after marrying Oliver, that they'd never have the closeness she'd been hoping for.

But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something...

Review The Mother-in-Law, Sally Hepworth
Andrea Thompson
Monday, February 25, 2019

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