By Naomi Schneider
In a Country of Mothers
In the conflicted, unnerving world of possibilities fostered by A.M. Homes's powerful imagination, two women of tremendous magnetism discover a tie that binds them—the intimacy that exists between therapist and patient—until it threatens to undo them both. And as their relationship begins to extend beyond the allotted "fifty-minute hour," what has started out as simple counsel and friendship develops into excess of the most moving, and frightening, kind.
For Claire Roth, a capable, established psychotherapist with an adoring husband and children no more alienated than normal, her new patient Jody Goodman—a witty and attractive young filmmaker—is a welcome diversion from a routine at once comfortable and predictable. Jody, successful yet uncertain about living apart from her adoptive parents for the first time, is disarmed by Claire's interest and approval. Gradually, for these two—exactly the right ages to be mother and daughter—the lines between friendship and family, between love and compulsion, begin to lose their focus. Every strong motivation they share—a belief in family, a desire to shape their own destinies and, possibly, to contend with a distant and suppressed past—could also unbalance them . . . especially when one of them starts to believe fanatically that some things simply cannot be coincidences, and that what they share, in fact, is the deepest bond of all. In a Country of Mothers is a transfixing literary and psychological thriller that questions such bedrock assumptions as the confidence we place in family, in healers, in all those we know, care about, and trust with our secrets. In its alarming climactic moments, all the more terrifying for the familiarity of their setting, A.M. Homes forces us to confront our own judgments about sanity,
Excerpt from In a Country of Mothers
"And you, good girl," Harry said, blushing, "are an angel." He kissed her forehead and drifted back onto the set. Jody dropped another quarter into the phone and called the office. "Michael Miller Productions, can you hold?"
"It's me," Jody said. "Is he there?"
There was a buzz, then the clattering of Michael Miller picking up his prized Lego phone.
"What?" Michael said.
"'What?'? No 'Hi, hello?' " Jody asked.
There was silence. After spending two years as Michael's assistant, Jody was often spoken to in a kind of small talk that was sometimes no talk.
"Fine," Jody said.
"I guess when you're losing millions of dollars, the little niceties are the first thing to go. Well, he knows I'm checking in. He just kissed the top of my forehead. A saliva ball remains in my hair. I think I can feel it."
"Aside from your personal injury?"
"He's taking his time. Going over everything again and again. There's no way he'll finish on schedule."
"Let me know more as soon as you can. I may have to try and bring in some new money. Speaking of which, where did you put that European check?"
"In the production account. By the way, I think I'm on to something. I just called Harry an asshole and he blushed."
She hung up quickly before Michael could respond.
"Lock it up," the production assistants screamed down the street. Within minutes traffic was stopped, pedestrians held behind barricades, and a rented police car, sirens wailing, raced up a side street past the first camera position, turned wide onto Broadway, spinning a little in from of a bank of lights and a second camera, then came to a screeching halt in front of Zahar's, third position. An actor dressed as a cop jumped out of the front seat, opened the back door, and a woman in a thick wool coat, played by the legendary Carol Heberton, stepped out.
"Do you want anything?" Jody said, mouthing Heberton's lines in synch with the action.
"I won't be more than a minute."
"Cut," someone shouted into a megaphone. "Once more, positions."
Jody pushed her way through the crowd, mentally calculating the cost of another take. Film was money; cost was associated with everything. As she started to duck under one of the barricades, a real cop stopped her.
"You'll have to cross on the other side."
"I don't think so," Jody said, and went forward.
The cop caught her by the shoulder and held her until a production assistant came to the rescue.
"She's okay," he said. "She's okay, she's one of us."
Jody dusted herself off.
"Harry's been asking for you," the PA said, "barking 'Good girl, good girl,' into someone's walkie-talkie,"
"Great," Jody said, turning to look at the crowd of hangers-on, thinking the whole thing was ridiculous. Michael Miller Productions—a.k.a. Forgettable Films.
She'd taken the job with the idea that if she wanted to be a filmmaker she ought to learn something about the business. For the entire two years she'd been there, Michael had been scraping money together so that old Harry Birenbaum, creator of hybrid, sweeping, pseudo-European romantic epics, could try his hand at a new kind of movie, one that had commercial potential, and ideally would earn back all the money Michael had begged, borrowed, and worse. If the film failed, Michael Miller Productions would probably become Michael Miller Lawn Service: WE CLEAN GUTTERS.
A homeless man appeared our of nowhere and scurried up to the food table. Jody watched him pile bananas, oranges, and apples into the crook of his free arm. He was almost at a dozen when a technician startled him—"And don't come back!" The last orange fell, bounced on the side-walk, and rolled into the Street.
Michael had talked Jody into loaning herself out to Harry during the New York location work by describing it as a unique opportunity to see one of the masters in action. So far, all she'd learned from watching the great one was that maybe she should have applied to UCLA's law school instead of the film department.
Jody knocked on Harry's trailer door, marked COSTUME to deter celebrity maniacs.
"Please," Harry called.
The door opened and Karl, Harry's assistant, came flying out as if he'd been fired from a cannon.
Harry himself was sitting sideways at the table, too fat to fit in facing front.
"Come and have lunch with me," he said.
Jody didn't answer.
"Well, come on. Can't leave the door open like that. Someone might see."
Jody climbed in and sat across from Harry at the dinette.