What would you do if you thought your child was a psychopath?
Hanna is a cute seven-year-old child with more than adoring eyes for a father. She has not spoken a word since her birth. Her mother Suzette is desperate for her child to communicate. But Suzette frailty psychologically and physically makes her an easy target for a young child’s manipulation. Alex, her husband is what Hanna covets.
Baby teeth is a display of warped family dynamics where a seven-year-old mute child, Hanna, disturbingly exploits a mother’s insecurities to garner a father’s love. The story is told in alternative points of view, Hanna, and Suzette. In Hanna’s chapters, we get a glimpse into a child sociopathic mind, which is both sophisticated and naive. With Suzette, we see a mother struggling with her unpredictable Crohn’s disease and her tenuous marriage. All she wants is her husband to believe that the child is purposefully devious. But he can only see a little angel and what Hanna hides from him is that she can not only speak, but also three different languages.
The characters in the story are extremely well rounded. The development of Suzette persona as a mother raising a child echos any parent’s concern. As a person living with a debilitating disease we are given a glimpse of the emotional and physical battles. Alex’s concern for his child over supporting his wife is off-putting, but this may be due to Suzette’s unstable energy and in that capacity believable. But it is Hanna that steals the show. Having a child as a sinister character, especially a seven year old could have been the down fall of this story. But it was the star of this novel. Hanna’s alter egos and personas were not only realistic, but creepy. There was however one dilemma: “…she regretted not being able to finish the job.”
The narrative is well-written, well-plotted, and delivered tension at the right time. The novel was fluid, easy to read, and compelling. Brush strokes of Swedish and Jewish heritage, the psychology of chronic illness and family relationship dynamics bring veracity to the narrative.
I highly recommend Baby teeth and look forwards to seeing more from Zoie Stage.
Thank you, NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Zoje Stage for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.