A Good Enough Mother – Bev Thomas

Another book from my subscription box, I think this time it was How Novel. And another one that I would not probably buy myself, but was happy for someone to pick for me. It certainly is a page-turner.

Ruth is a psychotherapist specializing in trauma, with years of experience. She helps her patients process their trauma in a safe environment, but also one that has clear rules and borders they have to adhere to. Her usual engagement with a patient lasts for six sessions. As we meet her and get to know more about her job, we also learn that Ruth herself has gone through a trauma that she did not really process. She is a mother of twins, but over a year before the events in this book her seventeen-year-old son left home and vanished. She is still hoping for his return and waiting for it has put her life on hold. Her marriage disintegrated, her daughter left for Australia.

She shares with us details of her work, but also details of her grief, including how she got addicted to a missing person’s website. At work, Ruth is calm and collected, but at home, she barely holds herself together. The only person in her professional environment who knows her secret is her supervisor. And maybe all could continue like this, with Ruth’s life suspended, if not for her new patient.

Dan looks exactly like her son. The first time she sees him she is frozen. Still, against everything she knows, she does not reassign Dan to another therapist. The beginning of their work is difficult, Dan has been through significant trauma, but also is reluctant to work through it. Ruth at the same time is very distracted and finds it difficult to maintain the professional borders. On top of that, there’s another major event in her personal life, that further throws her off balance and makes her reflect on what mother she has been to her son and daughter.

As you can expect the events come to a dramatic conclusion. And the plot holds through probably 2/3 of the book, by the last part I could pretty well predict what will happen. However, when I thought of it the strength of this book is not the plot. It is in Ruth’s introspection, her self-analyzing the relationship with her son. Another fascinating aspect was the look into the world of psychotherapists, the need for supervision, the fact that therapists are not super-human, they are also people with their struggles and problems. I sometimes think we position therapists in a similar way as our parents, they exist only through our lens, not as individuals, but in relation to us. It is difficult to acknowledge that a person you trust with your deepest thoughts is also fallible. They may be better equipped to help us than we are, but at the same time may require help themselves and may also make mistakes. That for me was the strength of this book, and what made it interesting.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska 

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