Review: “Divorcing Mom” by Melissa Knox

With this and my last review,  I seem to be on a bit of a mental health track, but I assure you it’s complete coincidence. I was sucked in by the promise that “Divorcing Mom” would be humorous, and while it is very well written and engaging, you won’t find much to laugh about.

Melissa is fourteen when she is first sent to Dr. Sternbach, her mother’s psychiatrist. This is New York, don’t you know, and for decades (and perhaps still) it was stereotypical that at some point, as a New Yorker, you would go to therapy. If there was no discernible reason, the shrink would surely find something wrong with you. What is wrong with Melissa is her parents’ sham of a marriage, orchestrated and dominated by “Aunt Berkeley”, her father’s therapist and muse. Dad is an abusive alcoholic, mom is an overly naive narcissist with masochistic tendencies. Melissa’s younger brother escapes from this setting by embarking on a course of substance abuse and truancy early on. All Melissa wants to do is dance, but soon she is informed by Dr. Sternbach that dance merely serves as a replacement for the sex she so obviously craves and as an outlet for her need for attention.

Through high school, college and beyond, Sternbach directs every aspect of Melissa’s life, dangling her pathetic mother in front of her like a Virgin Mary to be emulated. Her only confidante is her cousin Ceci. But when adult Melissa learns of her own mother’s abuse at the hands of her grandfather, this fragile alliance proves to be built on shaky ground.

I’m not sure why the book stuck with the title “Divorcing Mom” since every effort Melissa makes to do so is thwarted quickly and effectively by her psychiatrist. Only well into her grown years can she finally emancipate herself and find the distance she needs to maintain her relationship and her sanity.

“Divorcing Mom” is a shocking insight into a different kind of abuse, perpetrated by a professional who seems to care very little about his patients’ well-being, as long as he can be in total control. If psychology and mental health are of interest to you, I recommend you give this a read.

“Divorcing Mom” is published by Cynren Press. I received an ARC via Netgalley. All opinions are entirely my own.

divorcing mom