Mother May I is the latest novel and the second psychological thriller from author Joshilyn Jackson. It's the story of one woman's desperate search for her missing child, a search that will force her to come to terms with dark secrets with the power to upend the life she's so carefully built for herself and her family.
Bree is living the dream. Her husband is handsome, kind, and successful. They have three beautiful children, a stunning house, and they can afford to provide their children with most of the things they want. It's a long way from how Bree grew up, but she does her best not to dwell on the past. After all, the present is so much brighter and more palatable.
One afternoon while she's watching her daughter at play practice, Bree's youngest child and only son goes missing. Bree can't understand how such a thing could have happened. She only looked away from him for a few seconds, but that's all it took. Now, she's left with a note ordering her to go straight home, not to call the police, and to await further instructions.
AAR reviewers Shannon and Maggie have read Mother May I, and are here to share their thoughts on the novel.
Shannon: I'm a long-time fan of Joshilyn Jackson's work. There's a certain southern charm that transcends genres and permeates anything she writes that keeps me coming back to her again and again, and I've rarely been disappointed. What draws you to this author's books?
Maggie: This is only the second Joshilyn Jackson novel I’ve read, though I certainly plan to read more as soon as I get the chance. I picked up Never Have I Ever last year based on your review and am really glad I did because it was such a fast-paced, clever mystery. When I saw she had a new novel, I jumped at the chance to review it,
Shannon: The premise of Mother May I is one we've seen numerous times in genre fiction. A child goes missing, and his mother will do whatever it takes to ensure his safe return. For me, there were aspects of this book that gave the story a fresh spin, and that's one of the things I appreciated most about it. What are your thoughts on Jackson's take on the premise?
Maggie: In a novel like this so much depends on the characters and what they bring to the tale, and in this particular case I thought that Ms. Jackson introduced an intriguing group of personalities that breathed renewed vigor into this familiar storyline and turned it into something unique and riveting.
Shannon: Our heroine is Bree, a complicated woman who has done a lot to overcome what she thinks of as the downsides of her past. However, as the novel goes on, we see that these things she once viewed as flaws might just be the characteristics that help her survive. What are your thoughts on Bree and the conflicting parts of her personality? Did you find her conflicting feelings to be relatable?
Maggie: I would agree that this story saw Bree fully embrace forgotten aspects of herself and use that to overcome obstacles in her present. It was very relatable to me because I think it is very easy – as this story did an excellent job of portraying – for a woman to lose herself in the roles of wife and mother. We become whatever the people we love need or want us to be and sometimes forget who we are and who we want to be along the way. In this case the high stress situation Bree found herself in forced her to realize that she had always been more than the roles life had recently assigned her and she rose to the new challenges with everything in her.
Shannon: I want to talk a bit about the men in Bree's life. There are two of them, very different men who both seem to care deeply for Bree in their own distinct ways. Without veering into spoiler territory, did you have a clear sense of which one Bree would ultimately end up with? I was pretty sure who she'd choose, but I had no idea how Jackson would get her there in a way that felt authentic to the story.
Maggie: I really appreciated how the author managed to bring about a conclusion that felt very much in keeping with who all of the characters are and which seemed very natural given how the story had progressed. By the midway point I had correctly guessed who Bree would end up with, but I would have liked things a bit better if she had ended the tale on her own rather than with either male character. That just seemed to me a more natural conclusion given all she had been through, but this way worked too.
Shannon: You know, I never even considered she'd end up on her own until you mentioned the possibility here, but your point is a good one. It might have been interesting to see Bree surviving on her own. The epilogue would have looked completely different from the one Jackson wrote. Fortunately, the ending she gives us doesn't come off as forced, so I'm happy with it.
I must admit to being fascinated by the villain of the book. We don't initially know much about them, but as time passes, more and more is revealed. I obviously didn't like what they did to Bree, but I did find their actions to be understandable given their life circumstances.
Maggie: Joshilyn Jackson did an amazing job fleshing this character out and making them complex and compelling. Initially, I was mesmerized by the image they projected, which made them seem almost supernaturally spooky. That was just so in keeping with their role in the narrative and with their thick southern accent, they seemed like a specter come down from the hill country to mete out justice, a concept their backstory definitely supported. Any empathy I had was destroyed, however, by how callously our villain behaved towards the two little boys in the tale. The adults were the people who had caused them harm and they were the ones who should have paid. While I understand the feeling that the loss of a child was the worse thing that could happen to them, I really don’t think they would have seen it that way. It’s tough not to enter spoiler territory here but I believe that the people whose children were taken would have found solace in their older kids and not felt the burden of the loss as keenly as was wished for, nor would it force them to acknowledge their guilt in any way.
Shannon: As far as grades go, this is a definite A read. I flew through this book. In fact, I would have read it in a single sitting if life had allowed me to do so. I loved everything about it, and I struggled to move on to my next read once I reached the end. To me, that's the true mark of a great story. What about you?
Maggie: I would agree. The story is so engaging that you won’t want to put it down once you pick it up – I know I didn’t. I’d go with an A as well.
NOTE: This novel contains depictions of sexual abuse. While the scenes are described in the past tense and not overly graphic, readers sensitive to the subject matter should know they are present.
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent retailer
Visit our Amazon Storefront
Recent Comments …
I am not really a fan of second chance romances. I think I may be too cynical to believe in…
Having that problem too – just now, hugely enjoyed Spite House by Olivia Dade, m/f CR done wonderfully. Strong rec.
I really didn’t think you were criticising anyone, so we’re good! There was a discussion on AAR some time ago…
Carrie, please believe I understand why straight women like queer romances and that I meant NO CRITICISM of either those…
But, queer romance are as real to me as non-queer, so I still don’t understand your thinking. I still want…
That is my point. In books set in worlds we can imagine–contemporary romance, historical romance with modern values–we tend to…