Suburban moms weighed down with secrecy in ‘We Were Mothers’

“We Were Mothers” (Little A) by Katie Sise

What starts as an exhausting birthday party for Cora’s 2-year-old twins ends with a missing woman, a possible affair and an ever-growing list of secrets. Katie Sise’s “We Were Mothers” expertly snaps readers to attention with its grandiose opening. Cora’s Pinterest-worthy celebration for her children serves as the comical setting where we meet Cora’s neighbors and friends. It’s also where we learn Cora has a crush on her best friend’s husband, still wears mesh postpartum underwear and tends to hover as a parent. Meanwhile, the doting mom’s entire social circle harbors secrets all tied to motherhood, a theme that beats loudly on every page.

The saga unfolds through the lens of four women navigating family life in the picturesque town of Ravendale, New York. Three of the women find themselves tethered together by the death of Cora’s sister, Maggie, and the mystery shrouding the night she died. Cora’s mother, Sarah, and best friend, Jade, carry hidden scars from that fateful night and tiptoe through their days trying to hide the wounds.

Beyond the birthday scene, the first half of the book largely plants itself in the characters’ minds, filling in everyone’s backstories and dreams with so much nuance that it slogs down the gripping start. This, combined with a few instances of oddly placed political correctness tucked into inner dialogue, may cause readers to lose touch with the cast.

While some conflicts seem thrown in haphazardly, and ultimately dizzy the plot rather than flesh it out, Cora’s chapters read like laugh-out-loud mom-lit. Timing, inner discourse and believable fiascos blend together producing fantastic scenes, like when Cora pretends her toddler is only joking after the child slaps her mother’s face in front of the neighbors. Her observations and vulnerability carry the read.

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