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When an American exchange student is accused of murder, her mother will stop at nothing to save her.

A midnight phone call shatters Jennifer Lewis’s carefully orchestrated life. Her daughter, Emma, who’s studying abroad in Spain, has been arrested after the brutal murder of nanother student. Jennifer rushes to her side, certain the arrest is a terrible mistake and determined to do whatever is necessary to bring Emma home. But as she begins to investigate the crime, she starts to wonder whether she ever really knew her daughter. The police charge Emma, and the press leaps on the story, exaggerating every sordid detail. One by one, Emma’s defense team, her father, and finally even Jennifer begin to have doubts.

A novel of harrowing emotional suspense, The Perfect Mother probes the dark side of parenthood and the complicated bond between mothers and daughters.

It was midnight and lying next to her husband in their Philadelphia home, Jennifer Lewis was fast asleep. It had been a good day… Life seemed so perfect that when the phone rang, Jennifer didn’t even have the usual flare of panic engendered by an unexpected middle-of-the-night interruption. It was Emma, their twenty-year old college girl who was doing her junior year abroad in Seville, Spain…

“Someone was killed, Mama.”

“Someone you knew?” She was horrified.

“They think I did it. They think I killed him. Tell Daddy. I need a lawyer. Please come.”

“Why do they think you did it? Where are you?”

“I’m at the police station, Mom. I can’t talk. Please just come.”

There was another sound of people yelling and the the call was cut off.

Read Chapter One
Book Club Discussion Guide
  1. Do you think Jennifer is a perfect mother? Does she think so? Do her children?
  2. How do society and the media encourage women to strive for the chimera of being “perfect” mothers? How would you define a good mother?
  3. Is there a difference between unconditional love and blind faith in your child? What is unconditional love and is it really ever possible?
  4. What is a mother’s responsibility in the face of a possible serious crime by her child? What would you do?
  5. Jennifer has given up her career to raise her children. Her own self worth is tied up in her children’s success. How much does this affect her refusal to see any flaws in Emma? In her marriage? In herself?
  6. Jennifer is learning that she never knew her daughter as well as she thought she did. Do any of us really know our children when they are adults? Do they know us? Do they want to?
  7. There are multiple versions of what happened to the murdered Spanish student. By the end of the book, whose story do you believe? Do you think the whole story still hasn’t come out? What does Jennifer finally believe?
  8. Do you see parallels in this story with the true story of Amanda Knox? What is your opinion of that case? Do you think she is guilty? Why do we care?
  9. Do you like Marc’s character and role in the story? What responsibility does he bear for Emma’s problems? What responsibility does he bear for his marital problems?
  10. What do you think of the relationship between Jennifer and Roberto? Did you hope they would stay together or did you want to see Jennifer go back to Marc and her family?
  11. What is your prediction of what will happen next in this family? What will become of Emma? Will Marc and Jennifer stay together?