The Mothers’ Group
Allen & Unwin
Read from my Mt TBR Pile of Doom
As suggested by the title, The Mothers’ Group revolves around a group of women put together by their local maternal health centre to provide support for each other after the births of their babies. All the women are first time mothers and live in relatively close proximity to each other on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
The women are all quite different – Ginie is 39, a career woman who earns the big bucks as a venture capital lawyer. She meets, becomes pregnant to and marries the younger Daniel in a whirlwind six months. Ginie finds herself restless at home, keen to return to work both because she wants to and because the money she earns funds their lifestyle.
Made (pronounced like Ma-day) is 22 and from Bali. Married to a much older man who married her and brought her to Australia away from virtual poverty, her English is still halting and she finds it hard to keep up with other women when the conversation becomes rapid. Made still practices her traditions and is quietly philosophical and mature well beyond her years.
Suzie is in her late twenties and alone. Her boyfriend left her when she was 7 months pregnant with their daughter and now Suzie is a single mother, struggling to make ends meet. She has almost no support other than her former boyfriends mother, with whom she has a tenuous relationship. A free spirit, a believer in naturopathy, Suzie runs a home business in massage therapy to make ends meet. When she meets a handsome, charismatic man at her local coffee shop, she thinks her fortunes might be about to change.
Miranda is the only one of the women who is looking after more than one child. Her new husband Willem, father of baby Rory also has a son named Digby from a previous relationship where he lost his wife. Miranda struggles to bond with Digby after Willem dismisses the nanny, struggling to cope with a rambunctious and precocious toddler and a newborn often on her own for long periods of time when Willem travels for work. Miranda is hiding a secret on just how she is coping, from everyone.
Pippa married her childhood sweetheart and had a traumatic birth with baby Heidi, still suffering some months later. She’s struggling with Heidi waking up multiple times a night, which he husband, although supportive, never seems to really hear. She’s surprised when her mothers’ group rallies around her to help her the most during her hour of need.
Cara is the one that makes everyone feel welcome, who smooths over the awkward moments and diffuses any moments of tension that might arise with this group of very different women. Her baby Astrid is the go-getter of the group, crawling and walking early.
These women, thrown together by circumstance, form a very interesting and tenuous friendship, something that is shattered one afternoon. What should be a celebration turns to devastation and the revelations will threaten to blow the entire group apart for good.
Oh my god, this book. I had heard amazing things about it and I bought it without really knowing too much about it, just that it had received some good reviews from people I know. My husband went to the football yesterday and then straight to work from that so he was gone over 12 hours. After I got the children into bed, my reward was this book. And was it worth it!
Fiona Higgins brilliantly captures first time motherhood emotions and conflicts and what it can feel like to have a tiny, squalling newborn thrust upon you. There’s so many conflicting feelings, some that society makes you feel that you cannot even express and this book deals with them all, but not in a way in which makes you feel bogged down, like that’s all there is. The book is divided up into sections about each of the women, their background and how they came to be experiencing motherhood at this particular time in their life. They are an eclectic bunch, from brusque Ginie to hippy Suzie, which is the way most mothers’ groups work. You’re thrown together by proximity and timing, not intellect, social status or hobbies. Despite their differing personalities, slowly the women come to move from meeting out of duty to meeting out of necessity and want.
The book is engrossing as it sets up the group, introducing us to the women and their babies, exploring their backgrounds and establishing the connection that inevitably builds. It steps up another notch as the reader makes a discovery and then it goes up even more when an afternoon that should be a wonderful celebration for them all culminates in utter tragedy. It is devastating to read and I became glad my husband was at work because he makes fun of me when I cry reading books! This story was utterly compelling and then utterly horrific. It was car crash reading – painful but I was utterly unable to put the book down, I had to keep going.
The Mothers’ Group is an amazing story of tentative friendships forged by circumstance, the impact of motherhood on women and the impact of motherhood on relationships. Having a baby is the best thing I’ve ever done (I have 2 now) but it’s also been the hardest in some ways as well. My relationship with my husband is not the same as it was prior to children – in some ways it’s inexplicably better, in other ways it is not. It is the sacrifice we have made to be parents together and I do think this issue is brilliantly explored. Things do not just “go back to normal” after the baby arrives. I went to a mothers’ group after the birth of my first child Hunter, but it wasn’t a success. There were too many of us and the town was unsuitable to hold post-maternal health organised gatherings. I do wish I’d had that sort of support network as my family are all interstate and at times I missed adult conversation!
I’ll be recommending this one to everyone – it is that fabulous.
Book #71 of 2012
The Mothers’ Group author Fiona Higgins lives in Sydney, qualifying this novel for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. It’s the 24th novel completed.