Review: Baby Teeth - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

A battle of wills between mother and daughter reveals the frailty and falsehood of familial bonds in award-winning playwright and filmmaker Zoje Stage’s tense novel of psychological suspense, Baby Teeth.

Afflicted with a chronic debilitating condition, Suzette Jensen knew having children would wreak havoc on her already fragile body. Nevertheless, she brought Hanna into the world, pleased and proud to start a family with her husband Alex. Estranged from her own mother, Suzette is determined to raise her beautiful daughter with the love, care, and support she was denied.

But Hanna proves to be a difficult child. Now seven-years-old, she has yet to utter a word, despite being able to read and write. Defiant and anti-social, she refuses to behave in kindergarten classes, forcing Suzette to homeschool her. Resentful of her mother’s rules and attentions, Hanna lashes out in anger, becoming more aggressive every day. The only time Hanna is truly happy is when she’s with her father. To Alex, she’s willful and precocious but otherwise the perfect little girl, doing what she’s told.

Suzette knows her clever and manipulative daughter doesn’t love her. She can see the hatred and jealousy in her eyes. And as Hanna’s subtle acts of cruelty threaten to tear her and Alex apart, Suzette fears her very life may be in grave danger…

Book Type:

Psychological Suspense

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Baby Teeth
By Zoje Stage

Review: Baby Teeth

A psychopathic 7-year-old plots to kill her mother in this chilling domestic suspense.

With BABY TEETH, Zoje Stage pens an unsettling story of a deteriorating mother-daughter relationship. We meet Hanna Jensen, who is selectively mute. Her parents, Suzette and Alex, have put her through a litany of tests to ensure there is no physical disability. But Hanna is disarmingly sharp even at seven, and chooses not to speak. Instead, she expresses herself through violent outbursts including feral barking.

She’s been kicked out of multiple schools, forcing Suzette to home school her, even as she battles chronic Crohn’s disease.

“Hanna kept her words to herself because they gave her power. Inside her, they retained their purity. She scrutinized Mommy and other adults, studied them. Their words fell like dead bugs from their mouths. A rare person, like Daddy, spoke in butterflies, whispering colors that made her gasp.”

Hanna adores her dad, but feels her mother is in the way, manipulating her father, detracting from the total love and attention her fantasy life requires. She delights in every torment, every way she can make her mother suffer, waging a dangerous war at home—bloodshed she hides from her father.

“She needed… to step up her game against Mommy.”

But Suzette’s frustration morphs into fear as Hanna’s machinations escalate. Her husband Alex doesn’t believe Hanna’s nefariousness and Suzette is torn between beating Hanna at her own game and figuring out a way to be the mother Hanna needs.

When Hanna takes on the personality of a 17th century French witch, however, all gloves are off when a new, more permanent plan takes shape.

With alternating chapters between daughter and mother, Zoje severalizes Suzette’s mounting fear and unease, with Hanna’s unsettling calm and effervescent (but evil) determination. Hanna’s chapters paint a deeply disturbing picture, offering insight into her twisted fantasy.

What will likely unsettle and hit home with parents is how Zoje deftly explores Suzette’s struggles as a mother to a psychopathic child, and further, how that dynamic affects the frayed marriage between Suzette and Alex.

I’ve never read a book quite like this before—the equivalent of a movie you see through slit fingers, wincing along the way and chilling to the core. Don’t miss this one… it’s summertime’s most delicious fodder for book clubs and book junkies.

“Save Daddy. Even if it didn’t go the easy way, even if she had to look Mommy in the eye and hit her again and again, she had to save Daddy.”

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