The Mother Fault

Author: Kate Mildenhall

 Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster 2020

 Publisher description

You will not recognise me, she thinks, when I find you . . .

Mim’s husband is missing. No one knows where Ben is, but everyone wants to find him – especially The Department. And they should know, the all-seeing government body has fitted the entire population with a universal tracking chip to keep them ‘safe’.

But suddenly Ben can’t be tracked. And Mim is questioned, made to surrender her passport and threatened with the unthinkable – her two children being taken into care at the notorious BestLife.

Cornered, Mim risks everything to go on the run to find her husband – and a part of herself, long gone, that is brave enough to tackle the journey ahead.

From the stark backroads of the Australian outback to a terrifying sea voyage, Mim is forced to shuck off who she was – mother, daughter, wife, sister – and become the woman she needs to be to save her family and herself.

Name of reviewer: Yvonne Sanders

This speculative fiction thriller is set in a not-too-distant Australian future, fraught with an overreach of government control that pervades every element of daily life. Mim raises her two children at home in Australia, while her husband Ben works at the Golden Arc mining project in Indonesia. When Ben mysteriously disappears from the project, and with no answers from the Department, she launches her own dangerous mission to find her husband and reunite her family.

Mim is an everywoman dedicated to her family, yet conflicted about all she has given up career-wise. She harbours reservations about having forfeited her own career in hydrogeology, leaving an undercurrent of wistfulness for all she has surrendered. When her family is threatened, she is fiercely protective and determined to overcome the many obstacles that stand in the way of her mission. Yet she possesses all the familiar vulnerabilities of uncertainty, second-guessing herself, miscalculations and misjudgements that make her character both relatable and appealing.

Mildenhall has seamlessly braided together a series of subplots around Mim’s life and relationships, and the state of civilisation, with the mission to solve the mystery of what has become of Ben. The challenges she encounters make her question everything and everyone, compel her into impossible decisions. Escalating tensions rise to an unpredictable and shocking climax that forces Mim’s hand to save what is left of her family.

The Mother Fault offers a timely and poignant cautionary tale of all we have to lose when governments intervene too broadly in the lives of its citizens. While the loss of autonomy is shocking, we cannot help but contemplate its plausibility, especially given the current world order.

The Mother Fault is a compelling read, not the least because it’s a cracker of a story and nudges at our sometimes fragile hold on freedoms, but also because the nuanced tensions keep rising, keep tantalising our curiosity, urging us to discover what lies beyond. In The Mother Fault Kate Mildenhall exposes the primal urgency of what it means for a mother to protect her brood.