Title: Stone Mothers
Author: Erin Kelly
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Date of Publication: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Marianne left her hometown a long time ago, only returning for brief visits with her family. But when her husband buys a surprise gift–a condo in a refurbished mental institution–she’s forced to come back and face her past. A past that involves the once abandoned insane asylum and a decades-old secret that’s clawing its way back into the light…
The book begins with a very fast-paced, intense scene that’s wrought with tension. It’s not at all characteristic of the rest of the book, which is very slow and drawn out. The novel opens with Marianne returning to her hometown outside of London to live in a condominium her husband bought (without consulting her, despite the fact that they can barely afford it). The condominium is in a renovated mental institution that stood abandoned during Marianne’s teenage years.
Unfortunately I can’t go into detail on the best parts of the plot, because they took place two thirds of the way through the book. I will say that the book is divided up into parts, and one of the later parts deals with the asylum historically, talking about themes of feminism and mental illness that were engaging, fascinating, and, quite frankly, horrifying.
At one point I realized I’m too much of a millennial to truly relate to Marianne, which hasn’t happened to me in other, similar books about forty-year-olds with teenaged children. She’s a mother of a young woman, Honor, who suffers from depression. I’m not a parent, but while I can’t relate to her, but I can definitely understand the struggles she’s going through. But when she posts embarrassing comments on her daughter’s professional photography Instagram account, I cringed so hard that I dropped the book.
The decisions she makes are embarrassing. She abandoned her boyfriend years ago (mild spoiler alert), yet when she returns to visit she plays like she’s the victim (spoiler alert: she isn’t).
I related much more to Helen Greenlaw, and not just because we share the same first name. At first she comes across as cold and psychopathic, but there are interesting revelations about her character as the novel progresses. I can’t say more without revealing critical plot points.
Stone Mothers deals with the fascinating themes of motherhood and mental illness. Kelly expertly draws parallels in several of the characters, which is one of the most memorable parts of this novel.
A highlight of the book is the setting. The Victorian mental institution is so well described that it felt like I was there. The descriptions are palpable, and it feels like the institution is a character in and of itself.
While Stone Mothers is slow paced, there are several good twists that kept the pages turning. This book is recommended to anyone who is looking for an atmospheric psychological suspense.
*Thank you to Minotaur books and Goodreads for the ARC for review*
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