Rebecca Stone is a wife. A daughter. A sister. A poet. A woman who sees herself in Princess Di. And she is a mother to two boys--a white son born to her, and a black son adopted after the unexpected death of her eldest son's nanny.
It is the "and" in that last statement--"and she is a mother to two boys"--that forms the crux of Rumaan Alam's second novel, That Kind of Mother. Alam (Rich and Pretty) explores themes of individuality, motherhood, parenting, adoption, family ties and race through the lens of Rebecca's life. He pursues, to great effect, the tension between how Rebecca sees herself and how she wants to be seen by the world, the many ways motherhood both intersects with these perceptions and is entirely separate from them. Rebecca disappears into motherhood ("You've vanished," her sister scolds her), then balks at it in turn, desiring nothing more than her own quiet inner world. "She didn't want to be that kind of mother, the one who can't stop talking about her children, can't stop thinking about them. Surely there had to be another kind of mother for Rebecca to be."
Is there another kind? As That Kind of Mother unfolds, never shying away from Rebecca's very real flaws as both a woman and a mother, Alam offers nothing close to a definitive answer. Instead, his novel celebrates the impossibility of answering such a question once and for all--and in that, That Kind of Mother couldn't feel more honest in its depiction of the complexities, complications and emotions of what it means to make a family. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm