Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“She wanted a child. So she took one.”
I have been DYING to read this book for so goddamn long and it was worth every teeny tiny glorious second. It’s written so well that I’m not actually convinced the author has never stolen a child and forced it to stop swearing or eat healthily. I’m joking, of course, but once you read it, you’ll appreciate the sheer talent as much as I did! I’m beyond honoured to be taking part in the blog tour with these other AMAZING book bloggers – make sure you check out their reviews too!
Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want… except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But little foul-mouthed Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.
Meanwhile Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserved to lose Tonya and ought to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, she begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.
Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…
All the way through the beginning of this book, I felt a strange disturbing feeling in the pit of my stomach that has never made itself known before – it was SO intense! “Mummy” is desperate for a child of her own, so she quite literally takes one. Why wouldn’t she after the child’s mother is obviously neglecting and abusing her? Why wouldn’t she, knowing she could give Tonya a much better life than the one she’s currently living? The fast pace of the story is seriously addictive, and as we change perspective from Mummy, to the child’s original mother, Kim, the tension builds in the most extraordinary way that just forces you to turn page after page. I read faster and faster, keen to not only witness Mummy and her new daughter living their new lives together, but also to see exactly how Kim slowly loses her sanity in the search for her daughter. Each main character was already so vivid in my mind, and the opening to the book was very promising!
I was frequently putting myself in Kim’s shoes, trying to understand how it must feel to have your child taken from you with absolutely no idea where they are. It’s such a terrifying thought! However, I was so intrigued by Mummy’s life and how she thought stealing someone else’s child was the perfect solution to her problem. It was also obvious how disturbed this character was and how much she needed help. I felt there were many clues in the book about her past – we know she had a partner, Michael, who is no longer with her, and that being a mother is something she’d dreamt of for years after facing problem after problem. This character is so complex, so terrifying at times, but also manages to keep a reader transfixed on every move she makes and every discussion involving Tonya. Not only that, but the way the book is written helps you to really get inside the minds of each character. The author is insanely talented, and this is just portrayed more and more with each page you read.
“That’s what bad memories do – they ruin your chance of present and future happiness.”
Something unexpected that I really loved about the book was the way that we hear exactly what members of the public think about Tonya’s disappearance. Aside from Mummy and Kim’s perspectives, parts of the story here focus on the thoughts from Facebook and Twitter users, as well as advice for Mummy over on Mumsnet. This just enhanced the overall experience for me and this attention to detail made everything feel so real, like we’re focusing on a real life kidnapping. The book here really gives us an inside look at how the media can create a false view of someone, being hurtful without even knowing the full story. I found myself feeling sorry for Kim by this point after all the abuse she was suffering, yet I still had a weird feeling of knowing she could have done more to keep her children safe and feel looked after. It was here where we start to get little snippets of the story from Tonya’s point of view which I thought would make an excellent new development. I couldn’t wait to read more about her thoughts and just what she thought of this new life in comparison to her old one.
I started to see subtle similarities between Mummy and Kim which was so interesting to explore. Kim is obviously feeling the strain of losing her daughter and facing the press, yet Mummy is also struggling significantly with memories and flashbacks of her upbringing and how her partner treated her, as well as the stresses of bringing up a ‘difficult’ child who isn’t even hers. All these things combined create such a brilliant depth to the story which is simply impossible to tear your eyes from. Tonya is renamed Isabel and I wondered if this new name, this new sense of identity, would somehow enable her to warm more to her new life and her new Mummy. I thought it would be interesting to see how Isabel’s thoughts change over time, and I wondered if this was her life from now on, or whether she’d ever be reunited with Kim. The book had already made me think of the outcome for all the main characters and more intrigued than ever about Isabel and Mummy’s new journey together. An absolutely flawless opening to the book!
Mummy’s stress and haunting memories force her to turn to the drink and she regularly loses her temper with Isabel. The more we get into the book, the more I sensed potential danger, and the description was so thrilling and incredibly detailed. No matter how sick and twisted some of it was, this description was beautifully put together, and it was so satisfying to read how perfectly imperfect these characters are. Throughout everything I’d read so far, that unsettling feeling in my stomach remained whenever we read Mummy’s point of view, and it takes a damn good author to keep this as consistent as it is in this book! It’s clear here that Mummy wants to turn Isabel into a model child, one that looks perfect, sounds perfect and is the most perfect child anyone could ever want. Her task to change Isabel is far from easy, and again, going to such extreme lengths to change this child was worrying. Mummy plans to teach her lessons, to transform her into the girl she wants her to be. I thought this aspect of the book made quite a dark atmosphere which really suited the story line.
I liked how Kim and Isabel/Tonya had some sort of connection, where one could feel the other at random intervals. This connection gives them both hope, even though this feeling of hope resulted in Kim leaving her remaining young children at home while she ran off in search for her lost daughter. So heartbreaking! Certain scenes felt so saddening, especially when Kim feels a sense of hopelessness, and these feelings only continue. We get deep into Kim’s mind, almost as if we’re sharing each and every thought that goes through her head. I also loved finding out more information about Mummy and her sister, Margaret, too, and how their relationship had deteriorated over the years. Understanding these characters is such a huge part of the story and helps us to understand Mummy’s motives for taking Isabel/Tonya for her own. The first half of the book was even better than I could have imagined and I was dying to learn which direction the author would take with these characters!
“Perhaps she was never truly mine. We are doomed to this endless series of fights and disappointments, for she is full of sin. I must give her up to save myself.”
Mummy turns to faith and religion to help her answer difficult questions about Isabel, and one particular decision, a sacrifice she’s contemplating to make after drinking yet again, puts the innocent child in immediate danger. I was so shocked with her conclusion here, and just when you think the story couldn’t get any darker, it does, ten fold! We also see a whole new darkness form in Kim’s mind, so dark that she can’t even bear to look at her newborn child, Nathaniel, a lot of the time. It was at this part of the book where we really see the actions I’d been craving – truths about Mummy and what happened to her husband emerge, whilst Kim decides she needs to do something to get Tonya back – a sacrifice of her own. The tension here, the impending doom about what was about to happen to two very innocent beings at the hands of two unstable women, was some of the most gripping text I’ve ever read in a thriller. The author continues to impress with each scene and each character we focus on, and I couldn’t get enough of it!
Could either of these women go through with these sacrifices they’d talked themselves into? If they did, would they even get what they wanted afterwards? The thought of this was absolutely horrifying (but I loved it!) The addiction I felt towards the end of the book was overwhelming, and I literally couldn’t take my eyes away from each page! The “will they, won’t they” feeling about Mummy and Kim’s actions take the whole book to another level, and I was left hoping and praying that they’d see sense before two lives were lost. Were they really capable of doing what they believed they must do, and how would those around them act? Would they ever learn the truth? There were so many “what ifs”! Throughout the book, the reader is automatically drawn into the story, with each element building up so much suspense to create an unforgettable series of events; events that scare us, disturb us and that make us question so much about a range of characters. I couldn’t wait to see how the author ends the book as I had no idea how things would progress from here!
It was shocking to see just how Mummy’s actions seem to escalate when it comes to keeping Isabel “safe”. Locking her away in the cellar, giving her pills to force her to sleep while she runs errands or sorts out urgent matters and taping up her mouth to keep her quiet seems to be the norm now – just how much worse could this get, and would anyone ever find out her secret? It’s obvious Mummy is struggling more and more with this new role and I wondered if there was a time when she’d give her up or turn herself in. We also learn of something pretty gruesome, and the smell coming from the cellar made me want to reach into the book and grab little Tonya to keep her safe! I became more worried about just what Mummy is capable of the closer we get to the end of the book, and I couldn’t help but think of just how Kim would react to how her daughter was being treated. Would she ever find her? Would their family ever be complete again? Things just got a whole lot more thrilling – an experience like no other!
Kim and Mummy’s back stories are explored in greater depth, and I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for everything they’ve experienced in their lives, regardless of the way they acted in the present – especially Mummy. It’s the perfect explanation to why they’re acting like the are right now, and I thought it’d be difficult for either of them to get out of the huge hole they’d dug themselves into. The way the author writes everything at this part of the book, from description to dialogue, make us see how disturbed Mummy is, and just how much she blames her husband for her actions. The development of Mummy as a character was some of the best text I’ve ever read, with everything so detailed, so intense and so perfectly portrayed. It saddened me just how scared and helpless little Tonya feels at this point in the book, and it’s obvious how much she needs her real mother. This character has also been written to perfection, even though we only hear small details about her experience.
“I love her so much it hurts to breathe. Why can’t she love me? I can hardly bear the way her eyes impale me as she stares at me across the kitchen table.”
Mummy talks herself into ending this torture once and for all. It’s either her, or the child. Once again, the way the author has written this is terrifying, and we can tell that this time, it’s for real. Does she need blood on her hands to make this all go away, no matter the consequences? I got such a chill at this point of the book and I was constantly on edge knowing what was coming! Would she end Isabel’s life or her own? Or both? The author has built up the suspense perfectly at the end of the book and I knew however she chose to end the story, it’d be done in such a show stopping and unforgettable way. This tension, the gripping vocabulary and the haunting feelings just don’t go away until those very last pages, and what we were about to learn was something I never thought I’d see from Mummy. Does she have a heart after all, or were her actions too good to be true?
Throughout the whole book, my heart has felt as though it’s been ripped apart, my stomach felt sick due to the pain some characters felt and my brain was close to exploding the more we discover. I loved how there is never a dull moment in this book and just how much thoughts and feelings are focused on so much. This is consistent right until the end, and how the author has rounded the book off is still fresh in my mind (and will be for a long time!) Even though, a lot of the time, I’d like a book of this nature to end on such a shocking cliff hanger, I was was glad this book didn’t (although it still leaves us with things to think about!) The stress we’ve endured and shared with each character along this journey made me desperate to know the outcome for Tonya! The book is rounded off perfectly and I don’t think anyone could have written the ending quite like the author has done here. Absolutely phenomenal and a solid five star read -no doubt about it!
Reading this book, I was sometimes questioning my own sanity because I LOVED just how dark and disturbing things were (who even am I?!) Prepare to be shocked, even repulsed by certain people and actions! However, without all these dark details, the story wouldn’t be as gripping and thrilling as it was. Though tough to stomach this story line, it’s a book written with incredible talent and passion, with a unique tone and fantastic character development. It’s impossible not to place yourself in the shoes of the characters and feel every emotion so deeply with those who suffer the most. An unforgettable, thought-provoking story with everything you’d want in a great thriller. One of the best I’ve read!
A huge thank you to the author of this book, Tina Baker, and the team at Viper for my copy of this book to read and review. (Even though my hardback is on the way!) You can pre-order your own copy of Call Me Mummy now, which will be available on Amazon on Feb 25th! Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates.
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