Martin's Must Reads: 'The School for Good Mothers'
“We have your daughter. It’s the first Tuesday in September, the afternoon of her one very bad day, and Frida is trying to stay on the road. On the voice mail, the officer tells her to come to the station immediately.”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are the first lines in Jessamine Chan’s novel The School for Good Mothers. Frida is a single mother with shared custody of her eighteen month old daughter Harriet.
When the story begins Harriet has been crying nonstop for days and Frida is exhausted. In her sleep deprived state she decides to leave her daughter home alone and run out for coffee and a file she left at work. At work she gets caught up in answering emails and what should have been fifteen minutes turns into two hours. Her neighbor reports her neglect to the police.
The novel takes place in another time when even one lapse in good judgement results in harsh punishment. Frida is sent to a school for good mothers for one year. Her only contact with Harriet is a weekly ten minute phone call which is rescinded if she does poorly in her daily classes. Class topics include how to offer just the right amount of affection, how to keep your child from danger, how to get your child to sleep quickly.
Each mother is assigned a life sized doll that feels emotion and pain and except for the blue liquid that courses through its veins, very lifelike. Mothers are graded on the number of daily words they speak to their doll, their lessons and how they comport themselves. A bad score will mean no further contact with their real child until she turns 18.
If you’re looking for a dark creative novel, then you must read The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan.