Review of Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

This book was excellent.

Here’s the description that got my attention:

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way,…

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong…

The book jumps back and forth between Hanna’s and Suzette’s points of view, and with each shift goes your sympathies. When in Hanna’s pov, you see why she acts the way she does, why she’s still mute at age 7, and why she loves her daddy so much. At one point you even understand why she and her mother have such a strained relationship.

But then we shift back to Suzette’s and you recognize the anguish she’s in, the love she has for her daughter despite the difficulties the child presents, and her struggle (however flawed) to keep up the facade of her perfect little family.

It was these shifting sympathies and justifications that so intrigued me about this book. Yes, Hanna is mentally ill, but she’s never portrayed as strictly evil because we can kinda sorta understand why she acts the way she does. In her mind, what she’s doing is simply a means to an end: having her Daddy all to herself. Mommy has put a spell on Daddy and keeping him from happiness – it’s Hanna’s job to help him.

This book is a meta-analysis of all families, taken to an extreme in the struggle between mother and daughter for control and attention, the absent and clueless father, the happy face we present to the world while our household is falling apart around us, and our ability to love someone even when they’re set to destroy us.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Best Paired With: A pilsner for its golden color but bitter flavor, much like Hanna.

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