Careful What You Wish For

The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski

I had the pleasure of reading The Mother Next Door when I moderated a panel of authors for the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival back in early March (to watch the panel, click here). Tara Laskowski was one of the authors on the panel and since she was the first person to send me a copy of her book so I could prepare for the panel, hers is the first one I read.

And what a book.

Tara is an award-winning author whose other books inclue One Night Gone, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons, Bystanders Stories, and a number of works in short story anthologies. The Mother Next Door is the first book of Tara’s I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last. I’m especially eager to read One Night Gone.

In The Mother Next Door, Theresa, her huband Adam, and their teenage daughter, Lily, have moved to town for Adam’s new job as the high school principal. They settle in the tony cul-de-sac called Ivy Woods and Theresa is soon drawn into the clique of moms, called the Ivy Five, who all live in the neighborhood.

Each year the Ivy Five host a showstopping Halloween block party, and this year the head of the clique, Kendra, is determined to make it the best party ever.

As Halloween approches, the women are busy with preparations, to-do lists, and a million details that will make the evening a smashing success. But their excitement turns to unease when they begin receiving anonymous emails hinting at something the Ivy Five have hidden beneath the manicured surface of the suburban idyll they call home.

I read this book in two sittings. It would have been one, but I had to force myself to get some sleep. It seems almost everyone in this book has secrets they want to remain buried—even Theresa has a past that is getting closer and closer to catching up with her. But there are people who know what lurks beneath the sophistication and outward perfection of the cul-de-sac…someone’s getting ready for the big reveal, and someone else hopes it never happens.

Relatability is one of Laskowski’s many strong suits. The Ivy Five could be any women, anywhere. The reader recognizes the setting because we’ve all seen places just like Ivy Woods and we all know people just like each of the women in the book. Everything is eerily familiar.

Told mostly from the points of view of Theresa and Kendra, this book is dark and twisty and terrific. It’s also a fascinating look at the underbelly of mom/women cliques and the social hierarchies they promote. I highly recommend it and I hope you enjoy it!