To keep her children safe, she must put their lives at risk …
In suburban Australia, Mim and her two children live as quietly as they can. Around them, a near-future world is descending into chaos: government officials have taken absolute control, but not everybody wants to obey the rules.
When Mim’s husband Ben mysteriously disappears, Mim realises that she and her children are in great danger. Together, they must set off on the journey of a lifetime to find Ben. The government are trying to track them down, but Mim will do anything to keep her family safe – even if it means risking all their lives.
Can the world ever return to normality, and their family to what it was?
I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Mother Fault today. As soon as I read the blurb, I knew that this would be very much to my taste, and I wasn’t wrong.
It starts with Mim – a mother of two who receives the dreadful news that her husband, Ben, has gone missing from the mine he’s working at. There’s no detail initially as to the circumstances or possible explanations for his disappearance – he is just missing, days before he was due to return home. A horrible situation at the best of times, it soon becomes clear that these are far from the best of times as government agency “the Department” visit, ostensibly to check on Mim and the children and to see if she’s heard from Ben. The visit takes on a more threatening undertone as their passports are confiscated and as Mim is instructed in no uncertain terms to stay at home.
Ben’s disappearance and the visit from the Department set in motion a chain of event that will push Mim far beyond her relatively comfortable and prosaic life to date. It’s a dire situation, and while I wasn’t wholly convinced by some of Mim’s choices, everything she does is driven by the overwhelming need to protect her children and by the fear of what might happen if she does nothing at all. With no good option available, she does her best in the circumstances and I quickly became caught up in her story as the situation goes from bad to worse as she and the children go on the run.
What I really like about Mim is how utterly normal she is. Throughout the novel, Mim remains relatable, doing her best in unforeseen circumstances, but making some bad decisions, losing her temper with the children (and I defy anyone not to become frustrated with Essie) and craving a drink. She is undeniably doing her best to keep her family together and out of danger and while it doesn’t all go to plan you can’t deny that she’s tried. One of the things I love about stories like this is seeing how ordinary people cope in circumstances outside of their control, and Mildenhall does this brilliantly through the flawed but likeable Mim.
The Mother Fault is set in a near-future Australia ravaged by climate change and subject to an authoritarian regime. Wild-fires are increasingly common, sea-levels have risen, and extreme weather occurs more frequently. It seems like an all too plausible future if we don’t do more to prevent climate change while we still can. On top of this, most people – including Mim and her children – are chipped, something that was promoted with good intentions and while it allows people to pay for goods and service it also allows the Department to keep tabs on people. It’s another problem that Mim faces as she goes on the run.
Perhaps one of the most chilling aspects of this society are the innocuously named “BestLife” estates. Initiated as a way of managing the problems that plague cities world over such as homelessness and drug addiction, anyone that needs a home is given one on a BestLife estate along with their children if applicable. Children are given access to education and have a safe and secure home, adults are provided with work and retraining programs, and medical needs are taken care of. It sounds pleasant – a way out of poverty for those who need a helping hand. And yet there’s something undeniably sinister about these estates, particularly when you learn that it’s a one-way ticket and as you come to understand that these estates are used as a threat to ensure good behaviour for those on the outside. Mildenhall doesn’t explicitly state what goes on in these estates, although enough is given away to reveal the darkness behind the façade. It’s a brilliant and chilling addition to the novel emphasising the dystopian nature of this society.
The Mother Fault isn’t an action-packed novel, but it’s one that builds the tension gradually as Mim goes on the run with her children and as you start to understand the lengths that the Department are willing to go to. I did find that the ending was perhaps a little rushed – it seemed to be over very quickly for all of the build-up – although that ending is ultimately satisfying as questions are answered and as we discover what led to Ben’s disappearance and which set the whole tale in motion. The world-building in The Mother Fault is fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoyed this dystopian novel that carries a hint of mystery. Recommended.
The Mother Fault is published by HarperCollins and was published in paperback on 3 March. It’s also available in eBook and audio formats. Huge thanks to Susanna Peden and the publisher for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.
Disclaimer – I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has in no way influenced my review.
Make sure you check out the other wonderful bloggers taking part in the tour!