Abby Rhodes has returned to the home of her youth, her grandmother’s little flat in Hartley-by-the-Sea, a lovely coastal village in the Lake District, with her 3-year old son, Noah, in tow. Mary, who raised Abby since the age of 2, has suffered a heart attack. Since Abby needed somewhere to go after abandoning her veterinary education in Liverpool due to unforeseen circumstances, returning to Hartley-by-the-Sea to help manage the family’s beach café with her grandmother became a feasible option. Two years later Abby is finally feeling settled when her estranged mother shows up and announces that she’s moving in. Abby is not in the least bit amused by her mother’s sudden arrival and pronouncement that she’ll be staying on indefinitely. Laura Rhodes took off when Abby was a toddler, rarely returning to visit. As a result, Abby feels no real connection or attachment to her mother, and her attitude towards Laura clearly reflects her feelings.
But when Abby observes the interaction between her mother and grandmother, she discerns that their dynamic is much the same as what exists between herself and Laura. Why is there so much resentment in their family? In small doses Abby begins to question Laura about events in her mother’s life, and her answers cause Abby to rethink the assumptions she’s made about her mother, and her grandmother. Both women submit to learning more about one another when tragedy strikes and Laura comes through for her daughter in ways she could never have imagined. Carefully concealed within the mysterious layers of her mother’s rigid facade are compassion and decency—characteristics that Abby didn’t know her mother possessed. Nevertheless, Abby interacts cautiously with her, defenses always up, afraid that her mother will leave her again. Abby is clearly suffering from abandonment issues, and she wants to protect Noah from the disappointment and pain that Laura caused her when she fled motherhood. Of course Noah views his “nana” in a benevolent manner, as a young child would, oblivious to the flaws that caused the rift between Laura and his mother.
But when circumstances necessitate that Laura and Abby align themselves to handle matters relating to the future of the beach café, Abby can’t deny Laura’s practical business sense and keen judgment. Soon, mother and daughter are collaborating on ideas about changes to the tired looking beach café, and as they share space together more regularly, the negative, pre-conceived ideas Abby once held about her mother are slowly replaced by feelings of empathy and compassion, as she learns the truth about Laura’s not-so-glamorous life when she left Abby behind. Laura has even adopted a more selfless attitude and puts Abby and Noah’s needs ahead of her own. She’s starting to resemble a real mother. Still, Abby has questions. Who is her father? Why did her mother choose to give birth to Abby when it clearly had a tremendous negative impact on her young life? These questions and many more are what will cement or destroy the relationship that mother and daughter are slowly building.
I devoured this book. I loved it. Kate Hewitt portrays emotion in such a profoundly realistic way. Relatable, life-altering situations—marriage, children, death, are spoken of in such a way that it caused me to stop and ponder. I love books that evoke that reaction. And her ability to convey the natural conversational quality of the characters is one of the many reasons why I’ve enjoyed every single book of hers that I’ve read. I also appreciate how she incorporates beloved characters from prior books in the series. Knowing some of their back stories gave the book more depth.
I highly recommend A Mother Like Mine. It’s book three in the Hartley-by-the-Sea series, and can be read as a standalone.
Thank you, Netgalley, for a free e-ARC of A Mother Like Mine. In exchange I have provided an honest review.