Breaking Point Edel Coffey Sphere, €13.99
The timing of this novel’s release is impeccable, finding itself in the middle of a heated debate over Elena Ferrante’s Netflix adaptation. The lost girl. Ferrante’s short story features a woman who abandons her family in her quest for personal fulfillment. In Breaking point, Famed New York pediatrician Dr. Susannah Rice, known to her audience as “Dr. Sue”, accidentally leaves her baby in a stuffy car and the baby dies. Two very different stories, but both prompting similar judgments about “good” and “bad” mothering.
The media circus following the baby’s death is led by CNN reporter Adelaide Gold, a starving journalist who is as ruthless and acerbic as our Donie O’Sullivan is warm and cuddly.
We learn early on that Adelaide has had affairs with Dr Sue in the past, and this subplot is slowly drip-fed as the main plot develops. It turns out Adelaide has been leaking her own personal story for years.
Before Dr. Sue faces lawsuits for gross negligence, she must first face the Court of Common Opinion via social media, and Coffey’s description of how tragic reporting turns into a witch hunt is frighteningly precise. The tide has turned among Susannah fans. She’s now a monster, according to an army of keyboard warriors who have suddenly become an interstate detachment of bounty hunters, where the only prize is the self-satisfaction of “destroying” another public figure.
The impact of the image being all is cleverly detailed in a telling little moment on the first morning of the trial where, after being warned not to look too stylish or rich, Susannah struggles to find a pair of shoes. in her wardrobe worth less than $500.. And the desperate husband? He’s just doing what desperate husbands do…
Adelaide Gold, the first part of this drama, is for me the most interesting character. As the wave of public outrage against Susannah reaches boiling point, Adelaide’s own chickens are coming home to roost and they’re very persistent about it. While Dr. Sue is reviled for simply wanting to “have it all” (marriage, kids and a stellar career), Adelaide is forced into her own defining moment. This novel about modern motherhood stretching beyond capacity deserves bestseller status. And a movie too.