Bad mothers. Many a plot line owes its substance to them. In the case of Cass McBride, it is not she who is truly the villainess of the story, but the bitter, belittling mother of her kidnapper. Using the manipulative tactics learned from her shallow salesman father, Cass is able to intuit this fact and use it to save herself. Though at the book's end, she appears to be the victim of permanent psychological damage. This novel has a sensationalistic tone and reads like an episode of C.S.I. or Without a Trace. It was not one I would read again, or recommend to others.
On the other hand, Nancy Werlin's bad mother is a fleshed-out psycho queen par excellence. Unlike the cinematic scenes in Cass's tale, the story of Matt and his younger sisters is gritty, real and unforgettable. The "remembrance of things past" narrative works well to both highlight and soften the horrifying descriptions of the siblings' struggle to survive their mother's manic highs and lows. The supporting characters -- particularly the mysterious Murdoch and the children's aunt are flawed and fully realized. The love, the care, the torment and the hope for something better and more normal are palpable on every page. A very memorable novel.