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The Mother-in-Law

by Sally Hepworth

GENRE: Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama

Tensions run high between a woman and her intimidating mother-in-law in this domestic thriller. Lucy has never felt accepted by Diana, and when Diana is found dead of apparent suicide, she must reevaluate everything she thought she knew about her in-laws. A suspenseful page-turner that examines the secrets we keep from each other, even those closest to us.

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Author Biography

Sally Hepworth is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, most recently The Soulmate. Her novel, The Mother-In-Law (2019), has been optioned for a TV series by Hollywood actress and producer, Amy Poehler.

Drawing on the good, the bad and the downright odd of human behaviour, Sally writes incisively about family, relationships and identity. Her domestic thriller novels are laced with quirky humour, sass and a darkly charming tone.

Sally's novels are available around the globe in English and have been translated into 20 languages. She has sold more than one million books worldwide.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. - Author's website

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Kirkus Reviews

When Lucy first met Diana, 10 years ago, she had desperately hoped to find a warm, loving future mother-in-law. And while her fiancé, Ollie, adores his mother, his sister, Nettie, and her husband, Patrick, wryly warn her that Diana has always been more practical than sentimental. Aloof and absorbed with her volunteer work with refugees, Diana is an elegant woman of few words but lots of money. Although she is devoted to helping others navigate childbirth and the job market, she is loath to give her own children any money because she is convinced that they should have the opportunities to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, as she and her refugee clients have had to do. Frustrated by their mother’s financial indifference to their troubles, Ollie and Nettie long ago learned to turn to their soft-hearted father, Tom. Yet as Hepworth (The Family Next Door, 2018, etc.) shifts perspectives, chapter to chapter, we discover that Diana’s emotional reserve is actually secretiveness and uncertainty grounded in her own traumatic experiences. Her every attempt to show she cares is fraught with second-guessing how others might misconstrue her meaning. And it is this careful shifting of perspectives and time periods that exposes the sense of loss haunting the family, keeping the reader questioning who might have murdered Diana. Was it Lucy who finally snapped after Diana snubbed her one too many times? Or maybe Ollie, whose shady business partner may have pushed him into a desperate financial spot? Or perhaps Nettie and Patrick cannot wait for Diana’s estate. But why was the suicide note left in a drawer? A mesmerizing domestic mystery. Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2019.


/* Starred Review */ Hepworth (The Family Next Door, 2018) turns up the tension in her latest Australian-set domestic-suspense novel. Lucy’s ties with her husband’s mother, Diana, have always been fraught with tension, especially disappointing because Lucy had delighted at the prospect of a mother figure in her life after her own passed away. Lucy and Diana were never on the same page, and so it’s with mixed feelings that Lucy receives the news of Diana’s sudden death. Determining the circumstances to be suspicious, police question Lucy, her husband, and her husband’s sister and brother-in-law, unraveling secrets Diana had held close. Hepworth entwines the stories of two complicated women, from both of their perspectives, past and present, who desperately needed each other but were unable to say or do the right thing. Diana’s personality always suggested a cold, distant woman more interested in her charities than her family, but though everyone seems to have a reason to want Diana dead, Lucy realizes she never really knew her mother-in-law at all. A masterful depiction of how much is said in the silences, accompanied by increasing unease over what happened to Diana, makes this a winner for fans of Liane Moriarty and Megan Abbott. -- Tracy Babiasz (Reviewed 2/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 115, number 11, p30)

Publisher's Weekly

Hepworth (The Family Next Door) takes readers on a suspenseful ride as a family copes with the suspicious suicide of its matriarch. Lucy has never thought her mother-in-law, Diana Goodwin, liked her since they first met a decade earlier. Chapters in the first person from both Diana’s and Lucy’s perspectives reveal their deepest feelings and desires, highlighting past events such as the day Lucy married Diana’s son, Ollie, and Diana’s problems with depression after the death of her husband, Tom, moving forward to the time of Diana’s apparent suicide. The investigation of the suicide changes dramatically when police learn that Diana didn’t have breast cancer, as she had told her family she did. Furthermore, evidence emerges indicating she may have been murdered. Police question Lucy, Ollie, Ollie’s sister, Nettie, and her husband, Patrick, about their involvement in the possible murder, and each of them have motives, especially Lucy, given her contentious history with Diana. Hepworth’s short, punchy chapters keep the pages quickly turning while effortlessly deepening her characters. Readers will race to the end of this clever novel to find the truth. (Apr.) --Staff (Reviewed 02/25/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 8, p)


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