I can’t remember how I discovered this book, I’m 95% sure it was on instagram, but I thought it sounded interesting. I love crime thrillers, and this seemed like an interesting take on the genre.
From the blurb:
Mary B. Addison killed a baby.
Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.
Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.
There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?
Mary has recently been removed from “baby jail” to a group home. In her almost 16 years, Mary has learned to keep quiet, keep her head down and do whatever she’s told. She’s had to deal with domestic violence, abusive guards, neglectful carers, and bullying from fellow inmates.
Life at the group home is tough; Mary has no privacy, no personal space, no belongings and no future. As part of her rehabilitation she is learning cosmetology, when all she really wants is to get her high school diploma and go to university. Mary would love to be a teacher, or nurse, but that is something that will never be possible for someone like Mary. Who would trust their child with a baby killer?
Mary was 9 when Alyssa died. Many books have been written about what happened that night, but no one knows the events that lead to a 9 year old girl killing a 3 month old baby. Allegedly.
When Mary gets pregnant and is told her baby will be taken away, she decides to break her silence, as she fights to secure a future for herself and her child.
I was prepared to rave over this book, there were things that I found a bit irritating – such as the overuse of the word “allegedly” throughout the book, yes, I get it, we don’t know if Mary is guilty- but overall I was hooked and devoured it in one day.
However.. the ending. Oh goodness gracious, that ending!
What a bloody disappointment this book turned out to be. It was a really interesting, gripping read until the last chapter – literally the last chapter! – when the author went for the cop-out “twist” ending.
It completely undermined everything that you’d gone through with the character, and the character’s voice completely changed. It didn’t make any sense. It felt like the ending was written by someone else, like a reshot ending when a film hasn’t tested well with audiences. I hated it. It’s hard to explain why without spoilers, so if you don’t want any stop reading now.
Now, there are many examples of great books that had controversial endings, for example Gone Girl, where the overall review is still quite positive; so what makes Allegedly different?
In Gone Girl Nick’s decision to stay with Amy is shocking, but true to his character. In Allegedly the last chapter completely changes Mary’s character and shows that she has been lying about everything. She lied about lying. This makes no sense, because Mary hardly communicates to other people. When we are reading about what motivates her to speak out, and what lead to Alyssa’s death, these sections are mostly Mary’s internal thoughts… which means she was lying to herself. What would be the point?
When Mary discovers her baby will be taken away, her priority is ensuring that her child is safe. Mary loves her baby. Mary kept quiet about what really happened, because her Momma told her to. She was 9. Mary didn’t want her mom to be put on death row, or put in prison for the rest of her life. The purpose of the story, the reason for Mary to break her silence, is to prevent her child being placed in care, and experiencing same upbringing she had. This is Mary’s sole motivation. Except that isn’t her motivation at all.
In the final chapter in a twist, it turns out that Mary was the one who was hurting Alyssa. Mary loved Alyssa’s mom, and wanted to show her she would be a good sister. She dreamt of being adopted into their family and taken away from her abusive stepfather.
Mary’s Momma was trying to stop her from hurting Alyssa. So Mary’s entire internal monologue throughout the book was a lie, the struggle to choose between her baby and her Momma, a lie. At this point, Mary also annoyingly reverts back to a nine year old in her head. Her “plan” ? To get Alyssa’s mom to adopt her child so that they can finally be a family. So, was the pregnancy part of her plan the whole time? Alyssa’s mother has not seen her since the night of the murder, and her life has fallen apart. It. Doesn’t. Make. Sense.
The final chapter reveals were just so over complicated, far fetched and didn’t seem to belong with the rest of the book. It also rendered the revelations about Mary’s origins, and previous psychiatric evaluations, moot.
I went to sleep annoyed that I had read this book.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.