Becky would do anything to find out what is ailing her fourteen-year old daughter Meghan, who has been in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices with unexplained symptoms. She is also frustrated that her husband Carl isn’t nearly as dedicated to finding out what is so obviously wrong. It’s also not helpful when her sister Sabrina, who is caring for their dying mother Cora, isn’t supportive; she also believes that their dysfunctional upbringing has led Becky to act obsessively towards Meghan.
When Munchausen by proxy, a rare behavioral disorder where the primary caretaker constantly seeks medical attention for assumed symptoms, is suspected as the reason for all of Meghan’s mysterious ailments, the hospital administration steps in. And things heat up in all kinds of ways in this deftly-written page-turner of a book.
This is a fascinating exploration of a rare behavioral disorder, of family ties and relationships, of grief, and it’s also a tightly-written medical thriller. D.J. Palmer is a skilled writer; the pacing and tone kept me enthralled page after page with the different character perspectives shifting, with only Meghan’s being written in first-person, as she is the one experiencing the mental and physical anguish of the ‘disease,’ which I thought was a brilliant decision on Palmer’s part. Everything written from Becky’s perspective takes on a tone of anxiety, which fits perfectly with her character, proof of how well the characters are written and drive this novel.
It’s also ominous how dangerously symbiotic the mother-daughter relationship becomes; the relationship between Becky and Meghan then mirrors the one Becky had with her mom and that is pivotal to the story. I’m kind of in awe in how well Palmer psychologically weaves these characters together.
There are other plot threads that play a large part in the novel but I will let the reader discover them on their own. The overt exploration of Munchausen by proxy is so well done, and the underlying themes swept me away, so when the twists came out and grabbed me at the end, I was utterly surprised.
I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough; it has everything I love in a book: Complex relationships. Family dysfunction. Medical/psychological thriller. Interesting characters. Twists you don’t see coming. Expert writing.
*Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this book for review!