Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
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Sarah L. Rose is the pen name of a former social worker and award-winning journalist. Rose lives in rural Oregon. This is her first novel. You can follow Rose on Twitter.
One Bad Mother is based on a real case the author encountered as a reporter.
Irwin Griggs is One Bad Mother. A dysfunctional childhood eventually led to a adult who is a drain on society. Irwin has killed more than once and has made a game of impregnating and leaving women whenever he has had the chance. Irwin believes he is the way he is because he grew up without his father and decides the way to atone for what he has done is to kidnap and raise the five children he has fathered.
By some standards Layla Philips is One Bad Mother. Her child is in danger of being taken away by social services. Her childhood wasn’t much better than Irwin’s and this is often reflected in her choices. But Layla wants to keep and provide for her child and does the best she can, even if this means taking advantage of a well-to-do couple who want a child of their own.
Irwin quickly gathers his first four children, but when he comes for the fifth, Layla’s son Kurt, it doesn’t go as smoothly.
The high level concept of this book, a father who attempts to kidnap his children, each conceived with a different woman, and runs into one mother who fights back, is based on a true story. Had I not known this, suspension of disbelief might have been difficult.
Layla, the mother who fights back, is not an especially sympathetic character in the beginning. Were it not for two things, I would have had a hard time investing emotionally in Layla’s plight. The first is that, although Layla makes what seem like bad decisions, they are the most viable choices available. That she makes choices based on the best way of meeting her goal of keeping and providing for her son Kurt is never in doubt. The other reason I was able to pull for Layla is that the other alternatives for her son Kurt – a foster home, living with Layla’s father, or Irwin successfully kidnapping him – were much worse. As the story progresses, Irwin becomes crazier while Layla learns to make better decisions. As the tension built, my emotional investment in Layla’s plight did too.
One Bad Mother’s weakness is also its strength. That the story and the protagonist are both so much different from what I’m accustomed to seeing in a thriller made it tougher to get invested in the story, but also resulted in a unique story. In the end, the positives of this far outweighed the negatives.
The book contains a lot of adult language and some sexual situations.
The book contains no significant issues with typos or other copy editing flaws. However, the version I reviewed (obtained from Amazon) had a formatting problem that sometimes caused what should have been hyphens (as in the word slip-ons) to display an incorrect character on my Kindle. This issue was sporadic, but happened enough to notice. If the book interests you, don’t let this minor issue keep you away.
Rating: **** Four stars