Title: The Puzzle of You
Author: Leah Mercer
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Adult Fiction
What’s it About: Charlotte gets pulled out of her car by the firefighters, briefly hoping that whoever’s child is screaming that they are okay. When she gets to the hospital, the nurse tells her that her daughter is okay, but Charlotte is so sure that she doesn’t have a daughter as the last thing that she remembers is her trip to Italy with her husband, David.
Over the next few days, she comes to terms with the fact that she is indeed a mother, but does not recall anything about the past three years. Ultimately, she has to tell her husband and his mother the truth about this lapse in memory–she cannot simply remember making the decision to stay at home with her daughter and the challenges they went through. Her husband does not seem to want to fill Charlotte in about what happened beyond leaving breadcrumbs that their daughter has a heart problem. But both David and his mother say that Charlotte had been so strong, and such a great mother.
As days turn into months, Charlotte considers returning to work in order to feel more fulfilled, because she finds that she’s not the same person as she doesn’t have the memories to figure out how she was able to handle being at home with their daughter. Eventually, after talking with some people at one of the moms group that she used to be a part of, Charlotte decides to go for the job. No one would hire her except for her old firm, where she is told she would have to start again with a lower role, and she takes that position after discussing it with the mom friends. The Vice President–the man who took her role before she went on maternity–refuses to be understanding of her role as a mom, saying that she needs to be dedicated 100% to the job, which she agrees to. Even though he is aware that she has the knowledge, he does not put her on the team to make a pitch to their German counterparts.
Charlotte does the presentation anyway, and when she has a moment, she finds out from David that he has known for three years that their daughter’s heart condition was genetic, and he told her the day before her accident. She had left in a fury that day with their daughter in tow, but Charlotte has no idea why she would be so furious about this.
She manages to pitch the presentation to the Vice President and convinces him to take her on the trip to meet up with the German counterpart with whom she has a good relationship–Ute. The presentation goes well, and Ute asks who will be running point on this project, to which the Vice President names the other lady on the trip–Susan–ignoring Charlotte. Charlotte confronts him about it, and he tells her that he needs people 100% dedicated to it, not stepping out of the office for a phone call or to go home early because of their kid. At this point, Charlotte decides that this is not for her again, and returns home from her trip.
Entering her room where David is asleep on the bed and their daughter is asleep on the little bed next to it, the memories of who she was, come flooding back. She wakes up David and tells him that she had skipped out on a doctor’s appointment during her pregnancy because she had appointments for work, and that appointment could have identified the issue with their daughter’s heart–so she was protective of their daughter, thinking that it was her fault, and why she actually blew up on him when he revealed that he’d known for three years that it was a genetic condition. They make up, and grow close again.
In the end, David turns down the job further away from home that would allow him to build his own office for the company that he had worked for while Charlotte was going to be a stay at home. They decide to stay a little while longer in their tiny apartment, while they get back on their feet. Charlotte gets a call from Ute about creating their own pharmaceutical consultancy in London, because Ute did not like how the Vice President brushed Charlotte off when she clearly had the superior knowledge over Susan. So Charlotte begins to work from home on her own consultancy, which allows her to be with her daughter more. She also takes up running again, and at the end of a competitive run, her family is waiting for her with open arms.
Verdict: I enjoyed this book–it was a good read–although it was also a sad book due to the amnesia and the little girl’s heart problems. One thing that really stood out for me was how the book explored the attitude towards women, particularly moms and moms to be, in the workplace. It’s really quite jarring how cruel the workplace was, and I wondered if it was particularly portrayed like this due to particular cultural manners–the book takes place in London–or out of someone’s particular experience. It was almost that the women either worked or they were stay at home moms, but not really anything in-between, which is what I am more accustomed to seeing and hearing about in the US.
I particularly liked how the book was showing the present, but also giving us snippets of life from Charlotte’s past–like pages from her own diary. I wondered why she didn’t find the journals that could have helped her find out more about the past, since it sounds like it was a life-long habit for her.
Overall, it’s an entertaining book that you can read if you’re really into these types of things, but I feel like the book could have explored some of these topics for longer or deeper–amnesia and the impacts it has on the family, the heart conditions and how that affects or cripples families, or how pregnant women or moms are treated by the workforce. We never really truly get to see all of these aspects besides snippets of the past or Charlotte’s current experience that is also overshadowed by her amnesia.