3 star

Review: Safe in My Arms by Sara Shepard

The latest novel from Sara Shepard, author of Reputation and the #1 New York Times bestselling Pretty Little Liars series. When the principal of an elite California preschool is attacked, three moms—who feel like outsiders among the school’s manicured and ultra-wealthy community—must work together to uncover what she’s hiding, figure out who’s trying to frame them, and make sure their own secrets stay hidden.

Andrea, Lauren, and Ronnie all see themselves as good, loving moms who are trying their best, but they each arrive at the Silver Swans preschool Welcome Breakfast with something to hide. Andrea is running away from a past on the East Coast, which she cannot afford for the other parents to discover. Lauren is recovering from a postpartum condition her husband has warned her not to disclose. And Ronnie is hiding herself and her daughter from the one man who could at any moment appear in their lives and ruin everything she holds dear. They already feel like impostors among the school’s community of polished parents. But then notes appear in their children’s backpacks after the first day at school. Notes that indicate that someone knows their deepest, darkest secrets and needs them gone. Does someone not want them in the community? Or is it something more menacing—does someone know everything?

When the principal of the school is the victim of an almost-fatal attack, it quickly becomes clear that the Silver Swans community is not as flawless as the brochures and website would have you believe. The three moms must band together to uncover the school’s many secrets before the other suspicious parents and town police close in and use their outsider status to blame them . . . and before they lose what they have worked so hard for. 

From the author of Pretty Little Liars comes this new thriller, set in a time not unlike our current pandemic. Filled with good themes and effective portrayal of different maternal struggles, this book fell short for me a bit in terms of the actual suspense and plot. Overall I did enjoy it though, and it was quite a quick read.

Safe in My Arms happens over multiple POVs, our three protagonists who are three mothers with young children enrolled at the prestigious Silver Swans pre-school. Each mother has their own secret that they’re harboring, something catastrophic that they don’t want to get out. Yet someone seems to be onto them. What will they do when they are backed into a corner? Are they willing to do anything to keep their secret hidden? A fast-paced suspense, this book takes us through an emotional journey of a mother’s struggles and how far they’re willing to go to protect themselves and their child.

The pacing of the book was generally pretty decent. Lots of cliffhangers at the end of chapters before shifting to a new POV, leaving you wondering what happened. Honestly perhaps this was used too many times, and it became a bit too predictable. The POV basically just rotates between the three mothers, and sometimes it almost seems like these stories were written concurrently rather than three storylines intertwined, since they have calm at the same time and face (different) problems at the same time.

While I really enjoyed the diversity and inclusion in the characters, three mothers with three backstories became a lot to handle. I had a bit of a hard time keeping track of the character and their backstory. For about half the novel I’d say I couldn’t keep my head straight with what had happened witch each character – since they all have their concurrent issues running. I’m not sure if it was the clarity of writing or my own lack of focus, but this made it a bit difficult for me to get into the book, despite it being pretty short.

In terms of suspense and plot, I really wasn’t too impressed. Even the ending tied everything way too neatly with a bow – a personal choice but not my total favourite way of ending. The big reveals towards the end…didn’t feel really big. While the plot wasn’t predictable, it wasn’t exactly surprising either. Nothing egregious that I would flag down as a bad book, but there wasn’t much that I felt stood out as a cool and unique take on a thriller.

Overall it was a fine read, but nothing spectacular. I did enjoy the themes and the diversity that was present (very natural, not shoe-horned in), but the story itself just wasn’t up to par in my books. If you’re looking more for a suspenseful story about three women and their parenting struggles then this may be the book for you, but if you’re looking for a good thriller, I would look elsewhere.

Overall Recommendations

Safe in My Arms is a thriller written from the POV of three different woman with a past they want to hide. As they each to try to start their new life with their young children at the prestigious Silver Swans Pre-school, something quickly goes amiss – notes that indicate that none of the three are wanted there. Filled with diversity and a decent message, it wasn’t the highest of highs for me in terms of suspense. However, you may enjoy this book if you enjoy the parenting theme (especially motherhood), and if you enjoy quick reads.


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