A gripping page-turner about two young mothers, one grisly murder, and the lengths both women will go in the name of their children.
When young decorated combat veteran Travis Hollis is found stabbed through the heart at a U.S. Army base in Germany, there is no doubt that his wife, Luz, is to blame. But was it an act of self-defense? A frenzied attempt to save her infant daughter from domestic abuse? Or the cold blood murder of an innocent man?
As the case heads to trial in Los Angeles, hard-charging attorney Abby Rosenberg is eager to return from maternity leave—and her quickly fracturing home life—to take the case and defend Luz. Abby, a new mother herself, is committed to ensuring Luz avoids prison and retains custody of her daughter. But as the evidence stacks up against Luz, Abby realizes the task proves far more difficult than she suspected – especially when she has to battle for control over the case with her co-counsel, whose dark absorption with Luz only complicates matters further.
As the trial careens toward an outcome no one expects, readers will find themselves in the seat of the jurors, forced to answer the question – what does it mean to be a good mother? A good lawyer? And who is the real monster?
A Good Mother by Lara Bazelon is a legal thriller that will disturb you and leave you transfixed to the page as you hope beyond hope that there is a better tomorrow.
What I Liked
The story is very compelling. My eyes did not want to leave the page as I was often concerned, disturbed, and at a few points even horrified. It isn’t really even about whether or not Luz killed her husband out of self-defense or if she murdered him. It’s about the outcome of the trial regardless of what actually happened. After both lawyers offered their case, who would the jury believe?
I liked the theme of what makes a good mother that ran throughout the story. It paints the picture of mistakes and bad choices just being moments in time, not defining what kind of mother one is. And this is true to an extent. Good mothers are not perfect; what they share is an uncompromising love for their children and the willingness to always strive to make the best choices and to do the right thing.
What I Wish
I wish that the main characters hadn’t been so lacking in relatability. Most of Abby’s, one of Luz’s lawyers, choices on the home front disturbed me, though I could understand how she felt to a point. But she took everything past the point of understanding, and two events even horrified me. Nic, her significant other and father to her baby Cal angered me. If someone does something more than once that is horrifyingly abnormal and dangerous, there is either a medical health issue or a mental health issue, and a loving partner, to me, would have done something to make sure she got the help she needed. Then there is Luz’s other lawyer, Will. For Will, I have no words. I would say he was just fortunate and leave it at that. Lastly, Luz is an interesting character but is really sealed herself off, so getting a peek inside is all but impossible. This makes her unrelatable, and she lacks development as a character. Maybe if Jonathan had played a more significant role in the story (as he had the most potential to be a relatable character), my thoughts about the story in terms of characters would be different.
To Read or Not to Read
If you enjoy compelling legal thrillers that are plot-driven, so you are okay without character connections, you will enjoy this dark and disturbing read. But if you get triggered by violence and endangerment, just beware.
Lara Bazelon is an attorney, journalist, MacDowell Fellow, former public defender, and professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she holds the Phillip and Muriel C. Barnett Chair in Trial Advocacy. She is also the author of Rectify: The Power of Restorative Justice After Wrongful Conviction, as well as the upcoming nonfiction book, Ambitious Like a Mother: Women, Ambition, and Motherhood, and her writing has been published widely in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, The Washington Post, and many others.
Author website: https://larabazelon.com/
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Ramstein Air Base
“Front desk, Sergeant Jamison.”
“He was too big. I couldn’t get him off me. He told me I was going to die—[unintelligible]”
“Ma’am, where are you?”
“1074-B Arizona Circle. Call an ambulance. I need—”
“Okay, okay. I’ve got the EMT on the other line and the ambulance en route. Where are you hurt?”
“Ma’am, is that—is that a baby crying? Is that your baby?”
“Did he hurt the baby?”
“She’s—[unintelligible]—the other room. He was going to [unintelligible]”
“Okay, I reported the break-in. We are dispatching—security forces have been dispatched. Where is he now?”
“Ma’am, where is the intruder now?”
“He was stabbed. Oh, Jesus, oh, Jesus—[unintelligible]”
“What is the nature of the injury?”
“There’s so much blood—[unintelligible]”
“Ma’am, I can’t—I’m having trouble understanding you. I need for you to calm down so I can tell these guys what’s going on.”
“Where is he stabbed?”
“In his chest. He’s losing all of his blood.”
“The EMT is en route now.”
“Ma’am, could the intruder hurt you or the baby? Are you still in danger?”
“—an intruder. He’s— It’s Staff Sergeant—[unintelligible]”
“I’m having a hard time understanding you, ma’am. Take a breath. Take a breath.”
“Staff Sergeant Travis Hollis—”
“The intruder is—he’s—he’s military?”
“He’s my husband. He was stabbed. I stabbed him—[unintelligible]”
“Ma’am, ma’am, are you still there?”
“Travis, baby, don’t die on me. Please, don’t die.”
Excerpted from A Good Mother by Lara Bazelon, Copyright © 2021 by Lara Bazelon. Published by Hanover Square Press.