Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth

by Zoje Stage

Overview:Stage’s deviously fun debut takes child-rearing anxiety to demented new heights. Frustrated and fragile stay-at-home mom Suzette and seven-year-old Hanna alternately narrate a cascade of crises stemming from Hanna’s near-total refusal to speak, her mistrust of her mom and adoration of her dad, and the parents’ frantic attempts to find a solution to Hanna’s increasingly dangerous tantrums. From Hanna’s perspective, Suzette is the only thing standing in the way of the complete devotion of her father, Alex, and she plots ways to “step up her game against Mommy.” For Suzette, her love-starved relationship with a distant mother and chronic Crohn’s haunt every attempt to bond with a little girl who barks like a “feral animal” and only speaks as a 17th-century girl named Marie-Anne Dufosset, who was burned at the stake for suspected witchcraft. For the besieged Suzette, there’s also a troubling ambivalence about whether she wants to save or kill her disturbed child. Stage expertly crafts this creepy, can’t-put-it-down thriller into a fearless exploration of parenting and marriage that finds the cracks in unconditional love.

Carole Zwicker (11/21/18): I cannot categorize this novel: it's somewhere between psychological suspense and a horror story. The Jensen family is in crisis. Hanna is the seven-year-old daughter who, at such an early age, has managed to be expelled from schools for difficult and cruel behaviour. Although she is able to speak, she has remained mute until now. Suzette is the mother who herself has had a difficult childhood and has serious health issues as an adult. She takes on the task of home-schooling Hanna because there are no other alternatives. Alex is the husband and father who dotes on Hanna and believes that Suzette is not empathetic enough to the plight of their daughter. Hanna has become extremely angry and aggressive and will stop at nothing to split up Suzette and Alex in order to have her father all to herself and get rid of her mother for good. Each chapter gives us the point of view of either Hanna or Suzette and the cruelty and aggression increases at the turning of each page. Creepy is the word that comes to my mind when describing this book. Although the reader may wince and shudder, this novel is well-written by Zoje Stage and gives us a very dark look into this dysfunctional family.
Rating: ****

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