Two and a half years ago, Aimee Molloy — a successful ghostwriter and the mother of two young daughters — made a New Year’s resolution.
“It was Jan 1, 2016, and I said to my husband, I’m going to write a novel and I’m going to give myself 12 months to do it. I’m not going to take any other ghostwriting job and I’m going to hire a babysitter. And if in one year I haven’t written a novel or it sucks or I haven’t finished it then I’ll have to deal, and I’ll go back to work.”
Spoiler: She did finish, and it didn’t suck. By that December, manuscripts of The Perfect Mother were in the mail, and within the week she had a publishing deal. Now, her whip-smart thriller about the disappearance of a baby boy in the midst of a mommy-group meetup at a local Brooklyn bar is poised to become one of the summer’s most anticipated beach reads — and a feature film too, thanks to actress Kerry Washington and legendary producer Amy Pascal (she helped modernize both the Spiderman and James Bond franchises, among other projects).
“I think there were about six different teams of producers who were interested in optioning it,” Molloy says, “but Amy Pascal was early on and I knew that I wanted to work with her. She’s so smart and she really just got the book. And then Kerry came in a couple days later, so it was such a clear choice. I think they’re not sure yet who she’s going to play, but I know she’s developing it to be the main actress.” (In a comment to EW, Washington praised the book, calling it “a gripping thriller set in the psychological landscape of new motherhood.”)
Mother’s central mystery is very much in the mold of recent best-sellers like The Girl on the Train and The Woman in the Window, but it’s also a sharply drawn take on the cult of modern parenting, and the particular pressure women face — from within and without — to pull it all off, flawlessly.
“The characters are probably all elements of me and my own anxieties about motherhood,” Molloy admits, “and my own fears and the things that I was struggling with… Anyone with children, you’re constantly hearing about what your kid is supposed to be doing and I think anything that falls short of that, it can send you into a panic. You’re supposed to be exclusively breastfeeding and you’re supposed to be co-sleeping, but you should never co-sleep because you’re going to roll on top of your baby and kill it! And you’re supposed to swaddle but don’t ever swaddle because the baby will die if it’s swaddled!”
“I had this idea in my head of the mommy group, and I even hated that term. But I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna do this because I have no idea what I’m doing with this baby and then it really quickly became this integral part of my experience of becoming a mom. You could write an email and say, you know, ‘Here’s this issue that I’m having with my baby or my body or my relationship or my career,’ and within minutes you would get dozens of extremely generous and thoughtful responses even in the middle of the night — at 3 in the morning you would get six women responding right away.”
“So I saw this city that was all dark except for like, 20 houses with the lights on and it was all of us sitting in our rocking chairs rocking and rocking and rocking our babies with our phones in our hands, keeping each other company and supporting each other in this way.”
“I keep thinking I need to edit myself and say ‘new parents’,” she continues with a laugh, “but it’s not really new parents, it’s new mothers, because new fathers don’t have these same issues. The phrase working dad doesn’t exist but there’s always working mom. A working dad is just called a man.”
For now, this particular mom is planning a very brief break; a weekend in New York’s wine country. Then she’ll return to work on her upcoming a second novel, which, she says, “turns the lens from motherhood to marriage.” She’ll balance that, she adds happily, with her “need to just sit in my living room and feel delirious that my first novel was finally published.”