The underlying tenements of child psychology but also the structure of what parenting should be or consist of in a large sense is an interesting basis for an almost psychological horror story in “Baby Teeth” [Zoje Stage/St. Martin’s Press/320pgs]. The permeation of a mother’s relationship to her child and the logic within the child’s mind has been fodder for horror films but the relevance in the building of a sociopath is very interesting. Whether or not this is the construct of the author’s mind in some details is up for debate but it inherently shows the essence of logic versus emotion. Suzette is the mother and because of inherent medical problems which undoubtedly caused her husband to dote on her, when the arrival of her daughter comes into the world, that inherent social structure where Mommy is more important may have led to a deep seated rage and even animosity for her mother and maybe an over-arching competition for Daddy’s attention. The novel has an underlying essence of Sweden which might have to do with the author’s background. Within the essence of a character like Lisbeth Salenger in the “Dragon Tattoo” novels, this could almost serve as a childhood origin story in a twisted way. Hanna is the precocious little girl but the book takes her point of view in a balanced amount of chapters to Suzette. Her logic but also intelligence is formidable but still within the problem solving structures of a child with the exception of a proponent to violence. Her strategy and even creation of a second identity to psychologically mess with her mother is chilling. Add to that structure being able to appear the perfect daughter to her father until it cannot be hidden anymore. This is where her logic fails her. Add to this fact that Hanna is a mute for her own reasons makes for an unnerving but psychologically fascinating novel.
By Tim Wassberg