The Other Mother
Gwendolen Gross
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Buy *The Other Mother* by Gwendolen Grossonline

The Other Mother
Gwendolen Gross
Shaye Areheart Books
320 pages
August 2007
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Thea Caldwell is the mother of three children ranging in age from pre-teen to toddler. She is getting burned out with the constant demands of husband and family, and she vacillates between dreaming of another baby and dreaming of all the things she could do if she had time to herself. Then she feels guilty for wanting time to herself.

Amanda Katz is eight months pregnant with her first child. She is deep in the throes of morning sickness, fatigue, and the discomfort that comes right before delivery. To top it all off, she has just moved into a suburban New Jersey neighborhood to a new house after being a career woman in New York City. It is here that Thea and Amanda's lives intersect when they become neighbors.

When Amanda finds herself in a daycare crisis largely brought on by her ambivalence about returning to work, she turns to Thea for a temporary emergency solution. While watching Amanda's baby, Thea finds herself torn between wanting a new baby that she knows she will never have and trying to carve out some time for herself to recapture her own identity.

Upon returning to work, Amanda finds herself overwhelmed by the intensity of the feelings that she has for her baby and for the jealousy and pettiness that she feels toward Thea for being home with her, even though she acknowledges that she is unable to let go of the needs that are met by her job.

This is a story with glimpses into the life and heart of both a working mother and a stay-at-home mother, and I would have to say that the author does an excellent job of nailing the thoughts, feelings, and doubts that plague stay-at-home moms. Though I have never been a working mom, I suspect she does just as good a job with their issues as well. This is a book filled with empathy for both sides. There are no easy answers on either side of the Mommy Wars, and both sides pay a price for their choices. Gwendolen Gross is terrific at showing this.

We also get informative peeks into the past that help us to understand more about the characters. We see Thea's childhood, which is shaped by the death of her brother and her mother's inability to cope with the loss, and Amanda's mother, who seems to always hold her at arm's length, never quite managing to be available when she needs her. These details seem to tie the women together and help us to understand them more despite the differences in their choices.

There are a few points, however, where the narrative becomes strange for me. One instance is a kiss between Amanda and Thea that occurs after Amanda sees a dead body on her train ride home. It plays a good-sized role in the narrative, and I never did quite get the point of it - or the point of Thea's childhood friend Tia relaying her teenage sexual exploits when an upset Thea blurts it all out to her. It doesn't seem to fit to me and seems forced.

However, on the whole, I found this to be a worthwhile read, and I will look for other books by Gwendolen Gross.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Amy Rowlison, 2007

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