Contemporary Fiction

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth


Having lost her mother at a tender age, Lucy Goodwin was looking forward to finding a surrogate in her mother-in-law but realized at their first encounter that wasn’t going to be a reality. Diana Goodwin was a complicated woman with strong convictions about life and service. Though her husband, Tom, provided balance to her somewhat aloof nature, Diana still was the driving force in the family, expecting her two children to stand on their own and not look to their affluent parents as a safety net. Her love for her family was understood but not because you could see or feel it.


The story opens with news of Diana’s death, not clear whether it’s suicide or something else. We get two narratives, Lucy’s and Diana’s, transitioning between past and the present, using backstories and histories to provide context for current events. Lucy’s husband, Ollie, was Diana’s oldest child and he seemed to be nothing like her but very comfortable in his own skin. Her daughter, Nettie, appeared to be the stronger of the two with the more vibrant career but a weak partner for a husband. But always at the center of every important milestone was Diana who most often controlled their destinies.

I vacillated between liking and understanding Diana to strongly disliking her and wanting her to be better. The story was skillfully written as my emotional turmoil was due to the small reveals and insights sprinkled liberally throughout. The personalities of the entire family were nuanced, differing from their veneers at times and not always clear what was real versus facade and what lay deeply beneath. I was always off balance but completely absorbed into these people’s lives, needing more and getting it. There’s nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, predictable about any of them until you reach the end when you just know exactly who they are and their natures. And, the ending was true to each of them. I found this book to be utterly fascinating with brilliant characterizations. It’s clever without trying to be. I don’t reread books but this is one I just might pick up again.

Book Info

  • Release Date: April 23, 2019
  • Page Numbers: 352


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(I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review)

45 thoughts on “The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth”

  1. I am really looking forward to finally reading this book and your great review is very encouraging. Not sure though I will like seeing the name “Diana” there. I hardly ever read any books with my name in it and it will be disconcerting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent, compelling review. I have this one on my Kindle and was just looking at it yesterday. The title is a bit basic, which is why I think I keep passing it by. Now I can mark it as recommended! I don’t reread often either, so you’re immediate interest in doing so says a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

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