Can you outrun your lies? That is the premise of Mothers and Other Strangers by debut author Gina Sorell. It has a great opening line, that hooks you in, and keeps you reading, in the anticipation that you find out the end of that story.
The protagonist is Elsie, a thirty-something year old woman who returns to Toronto following the death of her mother. She’s had a tumultuous relationship with her mother (which daughter can’t relate to this?), and somehow hopes that this will be the closure she needs. But, she soon finds that there she has more questions than answers, and is also pulled into a web of deceit spun from her mom’s entire lifetime, going right back to the time when Elsie was conceived.
While she confronts her mother’s past, she must inevitably confront her own, and the journey is psychologically draining.
We read on, hoping that the journey will provide Elsie a catharsis. With a few minor plot twists and a blast into the past, the story seems to move two steps forward and one step back. Stalling, and meandering, the narrative has us grasping for the truth, it seems to lead us on to a payoff that seems less than satisfying. Nonetheless the journey may justify the end, and there was a ton of emotional mother-daughter drama that holds your interest. At the crux of it, this is a complex relationship, and perhaps in attempting to convey the confusion and complexity of it all, the writer achieved her goal is not tying everything into one lovely bow.
Regardless, of whether people agree with my opinion or not, there is one thing we can all agree on. Gina Sorell’s Mothers And Other Strangers, probably has one of the most intriguing first lines I’ve come across in a novel in a long time.
"My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man’s child, she accepted."