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October 2, 2009

Need to Read: The Wrong Mother

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Crime-fiction writer Sophie Hannah has a bone to pick with suburban women who think they can have it all. In her latest, The Wrong Mother, Hannah gets into the head of working mom Sally Thorning, whose self-indulgent slipup—an affair on a secret vacation—has put her marriage, and her life, at risk.

MC: Why do suburban moms intrigue you?

SH: All of my characters are alpha women: Sally's got a big job, a nice but useless husband, and two kids. And in real life people are always wondering, What's really going on behind the perfect facade? Crime fiction is a way of satisfying that nosy need to know.

MC: Did your own life inspire the book at all?

SH: When my children were very young, I was slated to go on a business trip. When it was nearly canceled, I decided I wouldn't tell anyone and go off for a week's vacation anyway. In the end, the trip went off as planned. But I was intrigued by the idea of an illicit holiday.

MC: So you have escape fantasies?

SH: When I wrote this book, my children were small and life with them was hard. A lot of women feel like they should be enjoying motherhood, they should be fulfilled and shouldn't be thinking, I wish I didn't have to do this. I wanted to write a book from that point of view. Obviously, Sally's feelings were exaggerated—but it was cathartic to include them.

MC: How do you think your kids will feel about that statement?

SH: I don't think they'd take offense if I said, "I found it really hard when you were little." Not because of them—because of me. I'm not cut out to lug babies around!


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