A review by Nalini Haynes
Ashe Davenport is the titular sad mum lady. She has childhood trauma coming to the fore while struggling with post-natal depression. It sounds like a recipe for a depressing, challenging book. For the most part, however, this book is hilarious. Each chapter is an anecdote strung together to form a nonsequential story arc.
Ashe struggles with depression and isolation while talking to animals in the zoo, reaching out – with mixed success – to other mums, and challenging a fine. Because, she said, her phone was on her lap while she was driving but she wasn’t using it.
The emotional arc
Where a novel has an emotional arc leading to the climactic plot scenes, Ashe begins with laugh-out-loud humor and builds to something darker. We glimpse her struggles with anger management and depression resulting from her childhood. She travels several towns over to find a support group that won’t impact her daily life – except, you know, for the travelling bit. And we sit with Ashe while her period is late. She waits, worries, and starts to wonder about another baby. So human, so relatable.
I just realized – after having received and read this novel – that Emma requested it. I’m so used to books going directly to the reviewer during pandemic restrictions that I hadn’t checked. So kudos to Ashe Davenport and Allen & Unwin for producing a book I wouldn’t have requested but that sucked me in: first enticing me to start reading, then compelling me to finish, in two days. While I had a break from reading, I went for a walk. Pondering the book – because it wasn’t letting me go – I thought it’s the ideal book for a new mum who can only read in short spurts. Reading a chapter feels like a few minutes with a contemporary, almost like having coffee with a fun friend. A friend who is not sanctimonious about the joys of motherhood but who gets real and tells outrageous stories. I highly recommend Sad Mum Lady, and wish I could have read it when I struggled through the mire of post-natal depression.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Format: paperback, 256 pages