‘You are her mother at this moment. The future is another time.’
In a remote corner of Tanzania, Essie Lawrence lives with her husband, Ian, and mother-in-law, Julia, at Magadi Camp. The Lawrence family have run Magadi Camp, an archaeological site, for generations.
Funds for the excavation of the site are alarmingly low but when millionaire Frank Marlow plans a fly in visit with his wife for their anniversary, there is suddenly hope that they can continue work. The dynamics of the family are strained but they all band together to prepare for the visit.
Essie often feels an outsider with mother and son and Julia’s approval is hard won. Julia has lived a hard life not least dealing with the death of Ian’s younger brother Robbie who went missing from the camp when he was four years old.
However, the organised world of Magadi Research Camp is turned upside down when Essie has a chance encounter with two strangers from the Hadza tribe. She finds herself inadvertently agreeing to care for a baby girl until the coming of the Short Rains in four months. She must then hand her back.
This poses the question will Essie be able to rise to the challenge of being a mother to this baby and how will it change her marriage and work? Most importantly, will she be able to give the baby back.
A Beautiful Mother completely captured me from the first page. The language is wonderfully evocative and the way that Katherine weaves in the landscape and the ancient wisdom of the Hadza, the last hunter-gatherer tribe in East Africa makes this compelling reading. I felt like I had been transported to a land faraway but was reflecting on something that is universal. This is a beautifully crafted story.
Author Katherine Scholes wanted to explore deeply what it means to have a relationship with a baby after she first became a mother herself. As a child she would accompany her father on medical trips to remote parts of Tanzania and she witnessed the desperation of mothers struggling to keep their babies alive and well, and also their relief at getting help. This is the inspiration behind the story.
The Beautiful Mother isn’t a book that you will want to rip through – you’ll want to savour it.
I highly recommend this reflection on the bond between a mother and child and the nature of belonging . I now plan to dip into Katherine Scholes back list over Easter.