By Karen Harrington
In our world, most everyone has heard about a mother killing her own children. Yet it still does not feel commonplace because we cannot understand what went wrong. Society glorifies familial bonds and promotes the idea of a mother’s unconditional love and particularly special bond with her children. I lived in Houston when Andrea Yates (who was originally sentenced to life in prison) killed her five children and watched the details of the horrifying case unfold. It’s a murder where society almost cannot bear to declare the murderer as anything but insane, since no sane mother could do such a thing. In the Yates case, I definitely felt Russell Yates deserved to bear more consequences for his role in the children’s deaths.
This is the matter JANEOLOGY addresses: Is protagonist Tom complicit in his son’s death? He spent his time at work rather than with his family and failed to notice the deterioration in Jane’s mental health. He received a nasty wake-up call when he discovered Jane drowned their children; their daughter Susan survived by luck alone. As his trial approaches, he finds comfort in alcohol. He believes in his guilt because he never saw the darker side of Jane. The woman she is now is not the one he married.
His lawyer will not work for someone who has already given up. He hires Mariah, a psychic related to Jane, to explore her genealogy. She came from a long history of abuse and criminal behavior. Dave, the lawyer, pushes a dark biology defense. By nature and nurture, Jane was a ticking time bomb and Tom had no way of knowing this about her history. The psychic element could seem goofy, but Harrington makes it work simply by making the story engaging.
Both the main and embedded stories are filled with dark subject matter, but JANEOLOGY does not feel like a downer. Instead it’s a gripping glance into the environment that produced a terrible crime. I’m not so fond of the ending, but it’s hard to finish something that explores such a difficult question.
Tom was neither a good husband nor father, but he did love his family. He did not notice the changes in Jane because he only saw the woman he loved. One feels sorry for Jane as the secrets of her past spill forth, even as nothing can absolve her of her crime. I do not think JANEOLOGY is for everyone, but Karen Harrington makes a difficult subject highly readable.
JANEOLOGY is available now. Explore more about Harrington at her Myspace or her website.
My review copy was provided by Pump Up Your Book Promotion.