Synopses & Reviews
Amanda is a successful book editor at a prominent publishing house in New York City. Thea is a stay at home mother of three who has never really left the community in which she grew up. Amanda, eight months' pregnant with her first child, and her husband move in next door to Thea and her family, and the two women find themselves both drawn to and repelled by each other and their opposing choices in the constant struggle to balance career and family life.
When a disaster forces Amanda and her family to take refuge in Thea's home, the underlying tensions simmering between them are forced to the surface and even more so when Thea fills in as Amanda's temporary nanny. But once dead animals start appearing on Thea's front porch surely a macabre gift from Amanda? the battle with "the other mother" begins in earnest.
With a keen eye for what pulls us apart and what brings us together, Gwendolen Gross has created a stunning, dark, suspenseful novel that is as brave as it is shocking.
"A suspenseful and compulsively readable domestic drama that's anything but ordinary. Smart and timely, The Other Mother is sure to keep the 'mommy wars' debate raging." Harlan Coben
"Gross paints an electrifyingly complex and explosively gripping portrait of contemporary, have-it-all motherhood." Booklist
"Gross gets many emotional details about marriage and the intensity of mother-love right, but she milks her trendy issues to didactic death." Kirkus Reviews
"A wonderful, compelling read for every mom torn by real (or imagined) tension with other mothers who've made different choices about working or staying home with kids. The Other Mother brings alive the reality of each mother's internal war." Leslie Morgan Steiner, editor of Mommy Wars
"A finely wrought domestic drama, The Other Mother draws out the intimacies of two women poised against each other's yearnings. Gwendolen Gross writes with the kind of nuance and grace that fire every moment of this timely story." Amy Scheibe, author of What Do You Do All Day?
About the Author
Gwendolen Gross is the author of the novels Field Guide and Getting Out, and received an M.F.A. in fiction and poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in northern New Jersey with her family.
Reading Group Guide
1. Choosing between being a stay-at-home or a working mother is an emotional decision–often fraught with guilt, doubt, and regret. In The Other Mother
Thea stays at home with her three children while new mom Amanda returns to work. Why do you think each of them made the decision she did?
2. Did you identify more with Thea or Amanda? If you have children, have you continued to work outside the home? If you plan to have children in the future, will you stay at home or keep your job?
3. “Disturbingly or threateningly different: alien, exotic” is among the definitions offered for the word other in Merriam-Websters online dictionary. How does this definition apply to The Other Mother? How are Thea and Amanda threatened by each other?
4. Why does it matter to Thea if Amanda works? Why does it matter to Amanda that Thea stays home?
5. Consider what you know about Thea and Amandas mothers. How is Thea like her mother? Do you think she is happy with the similarities? Is Amanda like her mother? How do the parenting styles of the women who raised them affect the actions and choices Amanda and Thea make as mothers?
6. What roles do Caius and Aaron play in the lives of their families? How are household and parenting responsibilities divided in each marriage? Do they seem even to you? How does the division affect Thea? Amanda?
7. What roles do jealousy, judgment, and competition play in the events of The Other Mother?
8. Did you, like Thea, believe that Amanda was leaving the dead animals on her front porch? Why do you think Thea suspected her? What did you think about the letter Caius sent to Amanda and Aaron at Theas insistence? What did you think about the postcard Amanda sent to Thea? At the end of the novel Thea denies involvement with the letter and knowledge of the postcard. Why?
9. There is an undercurrent of tension between Thea and Amanda almost from their first meeting. In light of that, why does Thea offer her home to Amanda and her family after the storm crushes their house? Why does she offer to babysit Malena when Amanda is at work? Why does Amanda accept?
10. After a stressful day for both, Amanda and Thea kiss. Why? What, if anything, does it mean? Does this shared intimacy make their relationship better or worse?
11. In addition to a son, Thea has a teenage daughter and a preschool-age daughter. How does she feel about each of her daughters? About her son? How does having one daughter who is outgrowing her need for mothering and one child who still needs constant mothering affect Thea?
12. How does Carras accident and Aarons rescue change the trajectory of the story, and of the relationship between the women?
13. How does Thea feel about the choices shes made in becoming a stay-at-home mom? Does she have regrets? Why is she insulted when Caius suggests she needs time for herself, though she agrees with him? What is Thea hoping to gain by going on an Outward Bound trip without her family? Does she get it?
14. Amanda returns to work at the end of her maternity leave even though she has mixed emotions about it. How does motherhood affect her life? How is her professional life different? Does it return to normal the way she hopes it will? How is her marriage different?
15. The novel culminates with the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. How does this event affect Amanda and Thea? Caius and Aaron? How does this national tragedy end the war that has been going on between them?