Mothers And Other Strangers by Gina Sorell (2017)

mothers and other strangers cover

L: 8.5/10

M: 8/10

 Analysis from a freshly cleaned out desk, waiting to harbor another failure:

The majority of the books that I buy for this group are done purely on a whim, with little to no research put behind them. I’ve been favoring a book store in Ann Arbor that, along with a recommendation table, displays a collection of books alongside a small blurb from an employee on why you should pick up and take it home. This book continues that excellent track record, and I’m going to keep going to the well until I have reason to do so otherwise.

Accompanying strong praise from a stranger and a beautiful cover, the first lines in this book were enough for me to purchase two copies and send one across the country post-haste. The opening prelude to this story is as great as a first-pitch that I can ever remember stumbling across. Gina Sorell rides that surging wave, spilling a mystery uncovered through the passing of a distant mother, skipping back and forth through time and halfway around the world. Oh, and there is even a religious cult. Bonus.

Enough strings are laid out in the beginning chapters to keep your mind turning, attempting to put your finger on why things turned out the way they did. Gina Sorell uses the narrator’s poorly buried memories to slowly tell a damaged family relationship and a life unknowingly looking for a reason why.

Halfway through Mothers And Other Strangers, I began to worry that the mystery was taking a little longer to get rolling down its eventual path. Since the openning pages the mystery was just begging to jump out of the gate, and at times it felt muzzled, with the clues already being presented. After the past gets brought into the current story, ending in several jarring and shockingly raw admissions, the story really gets it’s footing underneath and runs into the final chapters. Little time is wasted on the in-between, and scenes jump rapidly, but the flow is never damaged.

Gina Sorell does a fantastic job wrapping such a complex story into a little shoebox of secrets. This is a book I could lend to anyone without much of a sales pitch beyond letting them read the first sentence, something I see myself doing many times.

Analysis from a post-it with crumpled edges that keeps falling off the computer edge:

Well, he’s done it again! I am getting increasingly frustrated by my man L for his many kick-ass picks while I show up with self-help crap and Danielle Steele. This book was so surprisingly great. The first sentence hooked me, and I never lost the love.

I am a sucker for the story of a troubled mother/daughter dynamic and self-sabotage. My therapist would be thrilled to dig into that one, but Gina got it right. The story felt real and raw, and though you weren’t always a fan of each character, you stayed invested. I wanted to know the mom’s damage so that I could compartmentalize and forgive her. I needed that apology from Phillippe at the end so I could forgive him and let him die in peace.

While I tend to always be jaded and get anxious at the end of any book that the author has not allowed near enough time for all the loose ends to come together, I feel this ending wasn’t rushed. The real meat of the story was her past and the journey. Her ending didn’t need to be drawn out and over-explained. Her life was draining and trying, and she deserved a simple happy ending.

In all, other than wishing this book was twice as long, I have no complaints at all. It sits proudly in my carry on to pass on to my friend as we head on vacation. Well done, Gina Sorell. I’m a fan.

gina sorell
Gina Sorell

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