What a Mother Knows
Published by: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: May 7, 2013
How far will a mother go to protect her child?
An unsettling, emotional and suspenseful novel of the unshakable bonds of motherhood, in which Michelle Mason not only loses her memory after a deadly car crash, but can't find her 16-year-old daughter, the one person who may know what happened to the young man found in her car that day. But the deeper Michelle digs, the more she questions the innocence of everyone, even herself. A dramatic portrayal of the fragile skin of memory, What a Mother Knows is about finding the truth that can set love free.
“A missing daughter, a lost memory, and a desperate need to find the truth propel Lehr’s achingly moving suspense drama. Dark and unsettling, but with a ray of hope like a splash of light, and a knockout ending you won’t see coming.”
-Caroline Leavitt, With or Without You
“Leslie Lehr’s What a Mother Knows is a fast-paced and gripping exploration of a mother’s love. A powerfully affecting novel.”
-Heather Gudenkauf, This Is How I Lied
“Leslie Lehr writes about a mother’s devotion both intimately and insightfully, perfectly capturing its unique, all-consuming love. Her characters are so real I expect to bump into them whenever I walk outside. They’ll stick with you long after the book ends.”
-Hope Edelman, Motherless Daughters
“In this provocative page-turner, Leslie Lehr illustrates how sometimes the right decisions can lead to unintended, life-altering consequences. What a Mother Knows is a poignant, powerful novel.”
-Jillian Medoff, This Could Hurt
“Here the elements of Hollywood movie making and tabloid hedonism blend nicely with the desperate franticness of, say, S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep.”
-Susan Maguire, Booklist
“Leslie Lehr has crafted an insightful novel that gets at the heart of what it means to be a wife, a mother, a woman, in a world overrun by the expectations of pop culture.”
Lisa Bloom, Think: Straight Talk for Women
“For all you novelists out there, this book will show you all kinds of techniques for succeeding in the incredibly competitive world of fiction writing today.”
-John Truby, Truby’s Writers Studio
“I couldn’t put this book down – I was turning the pages so fast on my Kindle that it froze and I screamed in frustration waiting for it to unfreeze.”
-A Bookish Way of Life
“This suspenseful mother/daughter tale will attract readers who enjoy the domestic dramas of Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Gillian Flynn.
-Karen Core, Detroit P.L. Library Journal
“This is a puzzle that you won’t walk away from until you’ve put that last piece in place.”
-Lynn Cunningham of Fresh Fiction
“This novel screams ‘make it into a movie!'”
-Mary Yetta Alexander Reviews
“This book had me hooked from the first page.”
“I was completely invested emotionally in her story and struggle to find her daughter, crying for her, being outraged with her, simply hoping and praying that everything would work out in the end. It’s been a long time since I’ve read something that’s taken such a strong hold on me.”
-Long and Short Reviews
No one saw the deadly crash in the canyon on that gray October morning. The weather was strange, an out-of-season sprinkle from the coastal fog drifting inland. Soggy hitchhikers huddling under the umbrella of an ancient oak tree were the last to see the black SUV as it hydroplaned past them into the Santa Monica Mountains. A muffled bass beat trailed as it climbed the winding lane, up and around the evergreen scrub, until it disappeared in the forest crowning the coastal range. A mile farther, at the lovers’ lookout above the vast checkerboard of Valley streets, tire tracks puddled with mud were the only signs of human life.
As the headlights tunneled into the mist, no one noticed how the worn wipers flailed at the thrumming rain, how they blocked the bird’s-eye view of the gorge that inspired the Tongva name “Topanga,” a place above. No one could testify how the engine groaned as it climbed that ear-popping stretch of sacred land. Or how the vehicle veered around the dizzying curve, spraying water over the edge of the rocky cliff.
When a coyote streaked past to scale the hillside, the bumper dipped into a flooded pothole. Bright headlights bobbed across a plywood peace sign, then lit a tall pole flying a plaster pig toward heaven. A few yards farther, the beams flashed across the ruins of a legendary roadhouse like the spotlights of decades past. Echoes of Arlo Guthrie and Neil Young lingered in the air, but it was Jim Morrison’s tribute that haunted the highway beyond. “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel…Let it roll, baby, roll.”
The Explorer dove off the cliff. Airborne, the bass boomed louder and reverberated across the canyon, accompanying a chorus of screams. It crashed against a scrubby ledge, then spun through the shower of pine needles, shredded branches and shards of broken grill, hurtling down, down, down, ribs snapping against the steering wheel, head splitting on the dashboard, music still blaring until the SUV smashed against the rock wall, shearing off the side mirror, shattering the window, shooting out into the ravine where the chassis flipped. The car exploded into the creek bed, airbags popping, bones cracking, flesh tearing as the two ton cage of steel folded like origami into the mud.
When the sky cleared, the canyon Cub Scout troop began its weekly hike. They wandered out from the willows lining the flooded creek as the last plumes of smoke rose from the smoldering wreckage. Crows hidden in the hillside canopy flew out in a dark feathered cloud. A rabbit burrowed into his den beneath a steaming puddle of blood. Soon, sirens wailed in the distance.
By afternoon, the muddy canyon was clogged with emergency vehicles. The sky pulsed with the thwack-thwack-thwack of news helicopters circling for a story. Reporters soon pieced together the who, what, when, and where. But no one could explain the why. The only witness was trapped inside.
Eighteen Months Later
Michelle inhaled deeply, intoxicated by the scent of orange blossoms infusing the spring air. She smiled at the sidewalk parade of baby strollers and couples holding hands as Drew drove slowly down their street. He braked for the children bicycling past, then pulled the car into the driveway. Their classic California ranch house rose up behind the picket fence like a mirage, glimmering in the last golden rays of the day.
Michelle fumbled to unbuckle her seat belt as her husband circled behind the silver Volvo and opened her door. She climbed out slowly, stiff from the long drive home from the hospital. When he gallantly offered his arm, she felt like a queen being escorted back to her castle. Her hungry eyes savored every inch of the yard until she felt dizzy and had to squeeze them shut. She opened them quickly to be sure she wasn’t dreaming. No, she was awake. After all those grueling months learning to walk again, she yearned to dance barefoot in the lush grass. She was tempted to tear the petals off those crazy-big roses and toss them in the air like confetti. And she had never seen anything quite so wonderful as the name Mason spelled out on the mailbox. She was home.