Happy Publication Day to Sally Hepworth’s The Mother-In-Law!! This was a super fun read that I had the pleasure of discussing with the wonderful members of the Traveling Sisters group on Goodreads. Go check out their review if you haven’t already because it’s amazing! In other news, my husbands future boss has scheduled us to go out to New Mexico in just under three weeks! It’s all getting real and it’s very exciting and nerve racking at the same time! Finding a house in a state you don’t live in is turning out to be much more difficult than I previously anticipated. Anywho, time for my favorite line: Welcome back to the table readers! Today with my review I’ll be giving y’all a lightened up chicken Parmesan recipe that’s great for when you want to #treatyoself so stay tuned after the review!
When Lucy meets the love of her life Oliver “Ollie” she doesn’t just see a future with him, she sees one with the family she’s never had. She has a loving and doting father, but having lost her mother when she was young she has long yearned for the mother-daughter relationship she was denied. What she doesn’t expect from Ollie’s mother Diana is a cold aloofness that seems to seep out of her new mother-in-law. As they navigate their new relationship together, the space between them only grows until things go from bad to worse and Lucy wants nothing to do with Diana.
We laugh and I find myself impressed with the speed in which Ollie came around. I wonder if it’s because, in the back of his mind, he knows that we will never have to starve. He knows that at some point a huge amount of money will be coming our way, more money than we could possibly know how to spend. And to access it, all we need to do is wait for someone to die.
Police to come to your door with good news. They certainly don’t come knocking at dinner time with good news. These are the thoughts running through Lucy’s head as she sees the police cruiser pull up outside her home. But her kids are safe, her husband is safe – what could they possibly have to tell her? As the police break the news to Lucy and Ollie that Diana has passed under circumstances that point to her ending her own life questions begin mounting one on top of the other. Who puts their suicide note in a closed drawer before ending their life? Why isn’t he poison Diana supposedly used in her system and where is the missing throw pillow?
She was my mother but as it turns out… I didn’t really know her at all.
So full disclosure up front, this read was a bit middle of the road for me. It wasn’t bad by any means but it also didn’t knock my socks off either. I’ll start with what I really enjoyed. Hepworth’s writing is truly phenomenal. I loved the way each character was developed and I felt like, while at times slow, the forward progression was consistent and made sense. There’s no left-field drama thrown in for the sake of sensationalism. This was much more of a character study than I had previously anticipated and I enjoyed that we’re given both Lucy and Diana’s point of view. Diana was the strongest character and by far my favorite of this read. By giving us her point of view, she becomes less a villain and more a misunderstood and flawed human – which anyone can find connection to.
When discussing this read with my fellow Traveling Sisters we realized that this book is billed as a mystery/thriller whereas what it actually is, is contemporary fiction with a mystery thrown in. I think anticipating this to be faster paced left me a little let down. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and while the final twist was a real shocker that I didn’t anticipate it still felt like it lulled quite a bit throughout the read. If you follow my reviews than you already know that family dramas are not generally my favorite, so while I knew this was about a family I expected more thrill and less drama but got the opposite.
I could have written more, but in the end, there’s really only two pieces of wisdom worth leaving behind. I worked hard for everything I ever cared about. And nothing I ever cared about cost a single cent.
I really can’t overstate how much I loved Diana’s character and for a book that didn’t feel like it had many high moments (but it didn’t have many, if any, low moments either) she’s definitely one of my favorite characters I’ve ever read. I would’ve like a little more oomph but I can see why so many readers are loving this book. There’s a subtle, layered complexity in-between the lines of this read that I really enjoyed and was consistently impressed and surprised by. I also would be remiss to mention that I absolutely, whole heartily adore my own mother-in-law so not all in-law relationships are fraught!
Long Story Short:
Suggested For: Fans of family sagas / family drama fiction, fans of contemporary fiction with a mystery thrown in.
Alrighty then, now that we’ve got another review in a bag lets all head over to the table where we’ll be serving up a lightened up chicken parmesean dinner! I’ll be honest, this is not a meal that we eat regularly in our house at all. Even in a “lighter” version it’s a pretty heavy and decadent meal and we don’t do a lot of that. However! It’s great to treat yourself every once in a while and it was in the book and I must suffer for my art (JK it was delicious, I did not suffer).
Pans: 1 pot, 1 pan
Prep-Time: 10 minutes
Cook-Time: 30 minutes
- Chicken breast – 2-3 pieces (if already butterflied)
- I purchase mine already butterflied. If you purchase regular chicken breast I highly suggest slicing them to make one into two thin pieces. If you don’t know how to butterfly chicken, here’s a link!
- 3/4 cut breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- Marinara sauce
- 3/4 cup grated mozzarella
- 8 ounces spaghetti noodles
Easy edits to make, per preference:
- My issue with this dish is it isn’t very veggie heavy and that’s something we really focus on. I highly suggest trying this on zucchini noodles, or with a side salad or steamed broccoli to help round out the dish.
- Instead of baking you can always pan fry the chicken with a little oil which, while not as healthy as baking, isn’t as bad as deep frying. BONUS: If you use a cast iron skillet, you can just pop that baby in the oven to melt the cheese.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F and spray/oil baking sheet.
- I use parchment paper so I can avoid the extra oil / spray.
- Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
- Brush melted butter over both sides of chicken.
- Place chicken in breadcrumb/cheese mixture and place on baking sheet.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove from oven, top with desired amount of marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 5 more minutes, until cheese is melted.
Serve on bed of noodles, with salad or steamed broccoli.
Quote: We’ve just returned from dinner at the Sandringham Pub, a virtual heaven for parents due to its indoor playground that allows mums and dads to consume their beers and chicken parmigiana in relative peace while their offspring get into fights with other kids on brightly colored play-equipment behind a pane of glass.
Music Mood: Wildfire by Mandolin Orange
Another recipe and a read post in the bag! Have you read Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth? If so, what did you think? What are some decadent #treatyoself meals that you like? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!