It's 1960, and Elizabeth has a good life. A husband who takes care of her, two healthy children, a farm in the Forties Settlement. But Elizabeth is slowly coming apart, her reality splintering. She knows she will harm her children, wants to harm her children, wants to be stopped from harming her children. She doesn't sleep, becomes incoherent. Elizabeth is taken away.
We rejoin her in 1975, "well" once again, living in a group home and desperately trying to fill in the enormous gaps electric shock therapy has left in her memory. She remembers five words from her past and knows they are significant, but their meaning is slippery and she can't grasp more. She knows that Jewel and Jacob are her children, though she can't picture their faces, and more than anything, she longs to find them and explain that she never meant to leave for so long.
Shifting through time and points of view, acclaimed author Laura Best's first novel for adults allows us to see the ripple effects of mental illness and its treatment in the mid-twentieth century. Good Mothers Don't is a moving exploration of illness, memory, and how we fight for who we love.
Laura Best has had over forty short stories published in literary magazines and anthologies. Her first young adult novel, Bitter, Sweet, was shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People. Her middle grade novel Flying with a Broken Wing was named one of Bank Street College of Education's Best Books of 2015. Her most recent book, Cammie Takes Flight, was nominated for the 2018 Silver Birch Award. She lives in East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia, with her husband, Brian. Visit lauraabest.wordpress.com.
"Running deeper than the memory of home, only the body memory of maternal love survives the far-reaching ravages of mental illness which set a mother adrift from herself and her family in this crushingly beautiful novel. Laura Best shows the power of words to resurrect what gets lost to ideas and expectations of 'how a mother should be' and the stigma that surrounds all of this. This is a riveting, fearless book shot through with compassion. I loved it. I couldn't put it down." —Carol Bruneau, award-winning author of A Circle on the Surface
"Laura Best ferries us along on a journey both compassionate and compelling. She explores the relationship between memory and self, between what we know and who we are. Her voices are clear and true and true and tough as hope. Here is a writer you can trust to carry you away and bring you safe home." —Linda Little, award-winning author of Scotch River and Grist
"Laura Best's remarkable talent radiates from every page of this novel, the story of Elizabeth and her journey to reclaim herself and her family after a long sickness. This is a riveting exploration of mental illness and the devastation it brings to the lives of women, children and the poor. Told through a chorus of voices, Best weaves a hypnotically beautiful and intimate narrative, capturing the anguish and joy in the everyday, and the otherworldly. An unlikely page turner replete with hushed surprises, unexpected crescendos, endless love and boundless vitality." —Christy Ann Conlin, bestselling author of Heave and Watermark