Title: Call Me Mummy
Author: Tina Baker
Publisher: Viper Books
Publication date: 25th February 2021
Genre: General Fiction / Mystery & Thrillers
Format reviewed: e-ARC
Number of pages: 383
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
Okay let’s talk about Call Me Mummy.
I first read the book a few weeks ago and found myself so utterly disturbed I just couldn’t sit down and write my feelings. Good sign? Bad sign? I believe it is always a good sign when a book shakes you so violently you lose your speech, written or spoken!
I’m not a re-read fan, but I knew I had to if I wanted to manage to jot down any kind of reviews. So, in I went again…
First things first. If you are anything like me and steer clear of any mention of animal cruelty, animal deaths, anything animal-related, be careful when you grab this book. I had to stop reading and cuddle my furry babies a few times. My love for the author is unchanged, but some moments were just too much for me. So just be careful. There are no big details or scenes, but mentions of it can be a trigger.
Now I simply loved how Tina Baker knitted many societal subjects and matters together and created this outstanding, darker than dark, tale about relationships. Because the book doesn’t just revolve around mothers and daughter. Through a magnifying lens, we get to explore how family dynamics shape us, shape our relations to others, and how child trauma can’t be erased with a cookie. You’ll read about mothers, yes. But also, fathers, friends, husbands, everything and everyone that creates your bubble. In a raw and somehow violent but necessary way, the author dissects what spurs us to react, where our habits and values stem from, as well as how we cope when our daily landscape changes.
Yes, motherhood is at the heart of Call Me Mummy, or the title would be different! Mummy, in this case, witnesses what I believed to me quite a regular non-eventful moment in a family life – a mother and kids in a shop. I wouldn’t look twice. Mummy does because this is the very portrait she has been denied. And what she sees triggers an instinct reaction. A beautiful little girl is trying to get her mom’s attention, fails at it, and suddenly, Mummy’s judgement is on them. How can a woman who has been blessed with the gift of children act this way? The violence of Mummy’s reaction felt both understandable and terrible. We are quick to judge, that is for sure, but when something has been gnawing at us, tearing up the poor thing we call our heart, what do we do? We grab the occasion. Mummy does, at least. Childless Mummy suddenly has a child.
How many times have we wished for something only to realize the result was far from our expectations? Tina Baker depicts this issue with such delicacy it hurts. Could I feel for Mummy? Yes. Did I understand what she did? In a weird way, yes. Did I condemn it? Also yes! We are full of contradictions, aren’t we? And as I ran from one chapter to another, my feelings grew stronger, heavier, more desperate, just like those of the characters in the book I was unable to tear myself away from.
Through different perspectives, we get to experience the aftermath of the kidnapping of a child. Said child has quite a personality I must say! I suck at kids, but Tonya was cute! Well, as cute as kid who has been stolen can be, I guess.
The book also reminds us of the gaps in society. Mummy has a nice house with a basement and a garden. Kim, Tonya’s mother, lives with her partner and their kids in a small council flat. Their background stories may seem so different, but page after page, similarities appear. Tragedy and abuse can affect anyone and everyone. I really … Can I say enjoy? No. I really appreciated that Tina Baker never fell into the trap of clichés to explain what had been, was happening, and would or could happen. She shows the true colors of people carrying a heavy bag of bad childhoods, bad decisions, despair. Everything rang true, everything felt real. I think this is why I was so immersed in the story.
One mother learns to live without a daughter, one mother learns to live with one. As the kidnapping happened quite early… literally at the beginning of the novel, I wondered at some point how long the story could go on for, but I didn’t worry, as I was soon realized there was so much more than the actual act of stealing a child. The consequences for both the new Mummy and the devastated mom were fascinating to read about. I did feel like a big voyeur, or a news channel journalist recording an exclusive. I was both thrilled and appalled.
Now one element that really got to me was how the mother, the real one, was treated by the rest of the world. No, she probably wouldn’t win Mother Of The Year, but who could? Really? At the heart of this terrible headline is a woman who realizes that what she took for granted is no longer around, and the crushing guilt was barely bearable. My heart truly reached out to Kim, despite everything. To be honest, my feelings were all over the place throughout the entire book!
There is so much more I’d like to say but I might let a spoiler slip, or divulge too much, when in fact all you need is to give the book a try and you’ll see what I mean.
Call Me Mummy is powerful, razor-sharp, and raw. If you’re looking for tales of darker-than-dark, one-split-second changes and their horrifying aftermaths, grab your copy!