(Im)perfect mother

A review of Concrete Angel by Patricia Abbott

In Patricia Abbott’s debut novel, Concrete Angel, Christine’s mother Eve is beautiful, dynamic and she just loves her daughter, keeping her close at all times. Unfortunately, she is also toxic. Through Christine’s eyes, we learn that Eve has a shopping problem; she loves to buy, or take, things that are shiny and pretty. She acquires enough that she needs to rent several storage units to store them all.

Eve’s husband Hank married her for her beauty and spunk, and he tolerates Eve’s shopping sprees up to a point. But when she is caught shoplifting (4 department stores on the same morning) Hank can no longer deny the extent of her problem and Eve is sent away to The Terraces for psychiatric treatment. Which doesn’t work. Hank eventually divorces Eve, but for some reason believes it’s ok to leave his young daughter with her mother. 

Never one for working to support herself, Eve turns to a string of different men, and though she gives up her shoplifting, she invents new schemes for acquiring things and making money. She lets Christine take the fall for a terrible blunder she makes, manipulating her daughter, her ex-husband and lawyer into believing letting Christine take the blame is in the best interest of the then 12 year old. Christine’s sentence is months of court mandated therapy and Eve avoids jail. Christine finally rebels when Eve begins to use Ryan, Christine’s 3-year-old half-brother as an accessory in her crimes.

The ending of the novel was a mix for me. Through the final chapters, my heart was pounding as I worried Christine wouldn’t get away with her plan to ensnare her mother. But I felt a little cheated in the end; maybe I wanted Eve to get a lot more consequences than she eventually does. However, it did not ruin the novel for me. Following the evolution of Christine’s awareness of her mother’s behavior from admiration to loathing was diverting and I couldn’t help but cheer for her release from the codependent relationship.