My Mother’s Secret by Julia Roberts

Today it is my absolute pleasure to share my thoughts on My Mother’s Secret, the latest novel from Julia Roberts. I’ve really enjoyed reading the author’s books in the past so was delighted when invited to review this latest offering. My thanks to the author and to publisher Bookouture for the advance copy for review. Here is what it is all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy

About the Book

They told me he died, but I never believed them. I’d have known,’ she says, her voice little more than a whisper and her eyes searching mine. ‘A mother would know if her child died, wouldn’t she?’

The phone call comes in the middle of the night, rousing Danni from her safe, warm bed. The police have found her mother Diana wandering along the main road, miles from her house, confused and lost.

Danni races to her mother’s side, but when she arrives, as always, her mother doesn’t seem to care. ‘Go away, Danni,’ she says. ‘I don’t want you.’

When she was a child, Danni would lie awake at night wondering what she had done to make her mother so cold. Now she is determined to put the past behind them and make Diana as happy as she can in the time they have left.

But as some of Diana’s memories are slipping away, others are forcing their way to the surface. One night Diana breaks down in tears and reveals her heartbreaking secret. Years before Danni was born, there was another baby who never got to see the world. Now there is one last thing Danni can do for her mother. She will find her brother’s resting place, and bring Diana some peace.

But good intentions can have unexpected consequences, and soon Danni’s life will be changed forever. Are some secrets best left buried?

A completely heartbreaking and compelling story of families, secrets, and the fierce love between mothers and children. Fans of Amanda Prowse, Ali Mercer and Jodi Picoult will smile through their tears.

My Thoughts

It should be the simplest relationship you ever have in your lifetime but, in truth, there is nothing more complicated than the relationship you will have with your family. Everyone expects unconditional love, that should be a given, and most people do get to experience that. This is more definitely not the case for Danni who has always had the most turbulent of relationships with her mother, Diana, who always made no bones about favouring her brother over her. That doesn’t stop Danni from wanting to help Diana after she receives a devastating diagnosis, or for wanting her own children to get to know their grandmother properly whilst they all still have time. And it is during this time in which Danni and Diana are forced together that Danni uncovers a shocking family secret – that she had another brother she never knew about.

This book should come with an recommended add on of a box of tissues. It is full of tension and emotion as Danni struggles with the feelings of inadequacy when it comes to how her mother views and treats her, and then as she uncovers the sad facts about what drove the gap between her and her mother all of those years ago. It was nothing she had done, nothing she could have done, and uncovering the truth doesn’t make it any easier to take, but it does add a really emotional layer to an already heartbreaking tale of a divided family.

I could completely empathise with Danni and how she was torn between doing the right thing by her mother but also trying to protect herself from the toxicity of the relationship. There are many parallels I could draw between her life and my own, although thankfully my mother was never quite as vicious as Diana could be. But that idea of the child stepping up to be a support and, in Danni’s case, caregiver to a woman who was far from the perfect mother to her, is something I recognise well, and Julia Roberts has painted a very clear and authentic picture of that most troubling of familial bonds. All Danni wanted was her mother’s love and pride. All Diana wanted was her missing child. As Diana rapidly succumbs to her dementia, it looks unlikely that either one will get what they want. But that loss of short term memory and the regression to memories of her past that typifies dementia for so many families is sympathetically drawn and used to really good effect here, leading Danni to discover her Mother’s devastating secret.

I think that, for me, a key aspect of this book, what made me become so invested in their story, is the way in which the author has managed to make me, as a reader, care about Diana and what happens to the wider family unit, despite the fact that for large swathes of the book Diana is a truly horrible character. The way in which she treats Danni is awful and yet Danni never gives up on her, making you want to read on to see if she ever gets what she needs the most. But seeing the way in which Diana interacts with her granddaughters, you know that there is something in her that is good, some part of her that does have the capacity to love even if she couldn’t show her own daughter. The more we learn about Diana however, the more you come to realise what drove her to be how she is, and the shocking truth about her past will play with those emotions whether you like her or not. Julia Roberts has captured that element of the book perfectly, the judgment and assumptions that would have been prevalent at the time of Diana’s first pregnancy and the devastating consequences of what happens to her child. Those are the scenes that start to get to you. The ones where you will start to sense the ice in Diana’s heart finally melt.

This is a truly emotional story that paints a very vivid picture of Danni and Diana’s life. Not every family is perfect which is reflected here in this most fractured of mother daughter bonds, and yet it also shows that even the hardest of hearts may be capable of love. Whilst some of the events in the book may make you angry, and Diana will certainly test every ounce of your patience as a character, there are scenes towards the end which will make your heart break, and there were definite tears leaking before I finished the book. This book is about family, forgiveness, loss and redemption. It will definitely play with your emotions, and I have no doubt that there will be many readers who connect with different elements of the story for very good reason, just as I did. If you are looking for an emotional, domestic drama with a small mystery at its heart, then you definitely want to give this book a try.

About the Author

Julia was born in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, and began her career as a professional singer/dancer. This enabled her to travel the world in her late teens storing up experiences she has since included in her writing.

Following roles as a hostess on The Price is Right and a member of the Beadle’s About ‘hit squad’ in the 1980s, she became a TV Presenter and filmed features for Sky Sports before launching the QVC shopping channel in 1993 where she still presents today. Having always wanted to write, she penned her first book, a memoir sold on QVC, in 2013 and has since written seven full length novels, two novellas and several short stories.

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