The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall – Our Review
ABIA Longlist 2021 – General Fiction Book of the Year
Readers who had Kate Mildenhall pegged as an historical fiction writer after her 2016 debut, Skylarking, are in for a rude awakening with her second novel, The Mother Fault. Mildenhall has written a fast-paced literary thriller set in a dystopian – but nonetheless recognisable – Australia, where climate change has wrought havoc and citizens are chipped at birth and tracked by The Department.
When Mim’s husband disappears off the grid while working on a mining project in Indonesia, she becomes increasingly frustrated by the lack of response from the Department. Taking matter into her own hands, she heads north on a desperate road trip with her two children, Essie and Sam, and the vague notion of chartering a boat and getting to Indonesia. But that can only be done if she risks taking herself and the kids off the grid as well. What she discovers about the disappearance of her husband will change her life forever.
The Mother Fault is a gripping page-turner that shows the lengths a woman will go to to hold her family together. Mim is a gritty, flawed character, who must find the courage to overcome her own feelings of inadequacy, while protecting her children from the realities of a harsh world. The relationship between her and Essie, her precocious, questioning eleven year old, is central to her finding strength and hope when it appears no one is prepared to take her side.
Readers who loved James Bradley’s Ghost Species will find similar themes in The Mother Fault – a woman battling to stay afloat in an authoritarian world, where individual thought and action are discouraged. The warnings of “slippage”, the gradual, almost unnoticed acceptance of state control, are particularly prescient in the world today. For all that, it is a book that celebrates humanity and a mother’s love that drives her to extraordinary acts of bravery.
Review by Mark @ Great Escape Books