The Mothers by Sarah J Naughton


Sarah J Naughton

A group of wildly different young women have come together to survive the trials of motherhood, usually with wine in hand, huddled around someone’s polished marble kitchen counter, whispering about lives they had pre-child, said children now out of sight and mind. Having responsibilities, it doesn’t happen too frequently, but the rarity only encourages greater indulging.

After one such late gathering, Bella Upton wakes the next morning to find her husband is gone. Everyone knows “it’s always the spouse,” but as the police begin to ask questions, the testimonies among the other mothers begin to crack. Only one thing is clear: everyone has something to hide.


The Mothers is similar to Little Disasters in that it is centred around a group of women who meet each other at their ante natal classes and became good friends despite their differences. However, the similarities end there and things are not quite as they seem.

When Bella’s husband, Ewan, goes missing she files a report with the police but they are not duly concerned since he seems to have taken his passport and assume he has left his family. However, suspicions are raised when Jen Baptiste, one of the group of mothers, goes missing too and there is evidence a crime may have been committed in her flat. When the police investigate further, they discover Ewan has been embezzling money from his employer and may have been having an affair with Jen before their disappearance.

The story alternates between the present and the past as we are given the perspective of each of the five woman leading up to Ewan’s disappearance and the aftermath. We are introduced to the women as they arrive at Bella’s house for one of their frequent gatherings before her husband disappears, although the reader needs to be wary as the descriptions are from Bella who has a negative opinion of herself in comparison. Bella comes across as the typical frumpy housewife who allows herself to be treated like a doormat by her husband but she has mental health issues that can lead to psychotic episodes.

Chrissy, a glamorous divorce lawyer, is as clever as she is beautiful but her marriage is unsatisfying and she ends up having an affair with her Polish builder. Electra, the mother of twins, regrets her relationship with her toyboy lover and can’t deal with her son’s behavioural problems. Skye, a rape survivor, lives on a river boat with her asthmatic daughter and is in love with her gay best friend. Jen, whose child was stillborn, is sexy and provocative but deep down she yearns to have the same life as her friends.

DI Iona Chatwin is assigned to investigate the disappearances but she is baffled by the friendship these women profess to have for one another as they are quite critical of each other and seem unconcerned by Bella’s plight. Iona is convinced there is more going on here than meets the eye but her superiors don’t want her wasting time on it. Like the reader, Iona is an outsider looking into the lives of these women but she never really gets to grips with any of it and seems superfluous as a result.

The plot moves along at a steady pace for much of the story but it gathers speed as the secrets start to tumble out and there are a couple of decent twists along the way.