THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY
Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for. As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her. Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…
CALL ME MUMMY. IT’LL BE BETTER IF YOU DO.
Having just read Ashley Audrain’s brilliantly dark novel The Push, I decided to continue with the theme of twisted motherhood and dive into this debut from Tina Baker. I have absolutely loved Tina’s wondeful promotion efforts on Twitter and Instagram (this seems like a good time to send massive kudos to all the wonderful debut authors launching in lockdown!) and have seen loads of positive – if slightly traumatised – comments from reviewers I admire, so I was excited to read this.
Call Me Mummy is another very dark book, and Mummy is a terrifying creation, not least because she is so convinced of her own righteousness. The style of the novel – short chapters made up not only of straightforward prose but also of Twitter feeds and other points of view, sometimes only a page or less, works really well – we get to see the drama unfold from different angles, and it is very astute on the gap between perception and reality. Kim is a great character – she is flawed, and even at times, dangerous as a parent, but her portrayal by the media is far removed from her internal journey.
The parallels between Kim and Mummy are very cleverly done, and add another layer to the story. The star of the book for me, though, has to be Tonya. In so few lines, so much is conveyed about this fierce, brilliant little girl – and it makes what she goes through all the more heartbreaking. Mummy chilled me to the bone, but Tonya brings a warm light all of her own to the story.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, having seen Tina’s hilarious posts on social media, but it did come as a pleasant shock to discover that this is also a very funny book. The humour is, of course, seriously dark – but I absolutely love that! When the fastidiously tidy Mummy realises that – would you believe it – kids are messy; when she goes from “all I ever wanted was a child” to “all I want is sleep” – I had to laugh. Even the gradual realisation of just how much of a monster Mummy is becomes deliciously tinted with irony as we are presented with her hideously warped view of reality. It’s a real skill to enter into the mind of a character so twisted and compel the reader to want follow you there – Baker achieves this wonderfully.
Parts of this novel are really distressing; others are bleakly funny, but there was never a moment where I wasn’t desperate to find out what happened next. It taps into every parent’s worst nightmare and plays the whole scenario through in technicolour, making for a shocking, all-consuming reading experience which left me feeling breathless. I think Call Me Mummy is a really original book, a fresh and dangerous story that cuts deep and leaves a lasting impression. I would love to read more books by this author.
Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker is out now from Viper Books and is available to purchase here.