The Jensens are not your typical family. Alex is a respected architect with a prestigious firm. He prides himself on creating spaces that are warm and inviting as well as good for the environment, designing the space and using recycled materials to build homes that are filled with light, hope, and love. His wife Suzette, before the birth of their daughter Hanna, was an interior designer whose thoughtful use of interior space and creative balance of light and color could infuse a home with comfort, inspiration, and intimacy. They were a perfect team, working and living in harmony.
They were ecstatic when Hanna was born. Suzette had struggled for many years with Crohn's disease and worried that her body wouldn't allow her to be a proper mother. But instead, she was able to give birth to a beautiful baby girl, and both Suzette and Alex couldn't be happier. But Hanna was not an easy baby. She wasn't an easy toddler. And now she's not an easy 7-year-old, and Suzette is struggling.
After Hanna gets kicked out of several schools, Suzette decides to homeschool her. But that is difficult too. Hanna refuses to talk, communicating by grunting and pointing and being very happy to make her unhappiness known in loud and demonstrative ways, even in public. Suzette divides her worries between her daughter's well-being and her own digestive health, constantly wondering if she has done something to make Hanna so oppositional. Meanwhile, Alex gets along with Hanna with an unspoken language that Suzette is left out of
As Suzette and Hanna's relationship grows increasingly difficult, Suzette has to figure out how far she'll go to try to hold her family together. Alex has to navigate the minefield that is growing in his home. And Hanna needs to come up with a new plan to achieve her ultimate goal.
Baby Teeth is a wild ride, a novel told in alternating points of view between a mother struggling to do what's best for her family and a 7-year-old girl who just wants to be understood. Not for the feint of heart, this psychological thriller will take you to the extremes of family love and make you question everything you thought you knew about being a parent.
Zoje Stage is a filmmaker and playwright who knows how to bring the drama. From the first scene between Suzette and Hanna, you can sense the tension, and it just keeps rising as mother and daughter find new ways to engage in their battle of wills. The question of who will win, and how, makes this as compelling a read as anything I've seen lately. Dark and twisty, thoughtful and provocative, nerve-wracking and creepy, Baby Teeth is the book you'll be talking about for months to come.
P.S. Bring wine. You'll need it.
Galleys for Baby Teeth were provided by St. Martin's Press through NetGalley, with many thanks.