New moms on maternity leave have it hard. I’ve seen it firsthand with friends who work in corporate and have to find a way to not lose their identity after having a child. They have to juggle their new bundle of joy while relearning what it means to be themselves in their own world, and possibly dealing with postpartum depression.
Pascal Girard, graphic artist and author of Petty Theft, Reunion, and Bigfoot, takes us on an unsurprising journey through the trials and tribulations a new mom on maternity leave has to endure in Montréal while trying to solve a local mystery in Rebecca & Lucie and the Case of the Missing Neighbor. What new mom couldn’t relate?
Rebecca Lloyd has an 8-month old infant, Lucie. During a night feeding, she sees something odd outside her window — two dark figures loading something into the back of a white minivan and driving off. She doesn’t think much of it and goes back to sleep. Her days are full of taking care of Lucie, laundry, getting back into shape with other new moms, taking care of her husband (who’s a doctor), catching up on her own reading and her phone late at night.
The joys of being on maternity leave — allowing your body to rest from the birth while trying to keep up with your old life prior to having said baby – should have been Rebecca’s most relaxing she’d had in years. Fate, of course, had other plans.
During one of her trips to the coffee shop, she notices a report on TV where a local caregiver, Eduardo Morales, has gone missing. A few other customers also remarked how they haven’t seen or heard from him in a few days, some assuming he had gone on vacation. On TV, Morales’ cousin remarks on his disappearance, stating how it’s outside his routine to disappear suddenly, and that Morales doesn’t go looking for trouble either. Rebecca is enjoying her allongé when she overhears the street where Morales lives, just around the corner from her.
Her interest piqued, she decides to go searching for some answers. She encounters a few obstacles with Morales’ building manager and elderly clients. Undeterred, she decides to start her own investigation. She lays out her suspects, motive (possibly to do with the inheritance of Morales’ clients), and heads to the police to see if she can dig up more information. The investigation takes her down some winding paths where she breaks rules, such as stealing her husband’s medical ID and impersonating a medical professional, just to find answers.
Girard created a mystery that would have anyone’s interest piqued, and makes theoretical sense how a new mom would want to don a detective hat of finding a missing person versus a missing sock. However, Rebecca comes off as extremely flighty and troublesome, unable to focus on her actual life rather than the one she creates as a detective. It’s as if she wants to escape her own life to live one that’s more exciting.
Also, she puts herself in some seriously dangerous situations, sometimes with her infant in tow, which as any new mom would know is off-limits. Perhaps Girard doesn’t understand the complexities of being a new mom?
Rebecca & Lucie and the Case of the Missing Neighbor is a very light summer read, thanks to Helge Dascher’s fine translation. So light, in fact, that it doesn’t have any sort of anchor in realism, especially when Rebecca eventually (spoiler) solves the case with ease. The story never digs deep enough into the heartbreaking issues women have to deal with after they give birth, and doesn’t seem interested in doing so. It’s an interesting idea, just one that never truly takes flight.