The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall

1. First lines. 2. Published 2020 Simon & Schuster 3. Mother, children [Public Domain] via Pxfuel

Set in the near future when climate change has caused sea levels to flood large areas, Australia is ruled by a government that keeps everyone under surveillance with microchips inserted into their hands. Mim’s husband Ben has failed to return home from his mining job in Indonesia. She and her children are being watched by the government, but she decides to take her children and go to find Ben. She is aware of being followed but she manages to get an old school-friend to take her and the children to Indonesia in his boat.


“‘He is missing. Your husband is missing.’”

“The equatorial region is beginning to really sweat it, the patterns of climate refugees marking trails like new currents on the maps as they swarm to higher, cooler ground.”

“Before the border they begin to see the ravages of the latest fires. Unprecedented, again. The word has lost its meaning.”

My thoughts:

Recommended as a fast-paced adventure that is well-written. However, I felt that something was missing, because there were no real explanations about the “Department”. It just didn’t seem fully developed in the book as a sinister force. The blurb indicates that Mim was meant to be a strong character “forced to shuck off who she was – mother, daughter, wife, sister – and become the woman she needs to be to save her family and herself”, but to me she just came across as selfish.

Book reviews:
  • The AU Review: “In language which is tough and poetic and keenly selected, The Mother Fault is a stunning account of a possible future, and deserves every bit of the hype it has received in the lead up to its release.”
  • Books and Publishing: “With its superb storytelling and capacity to spark reflection on the way we live, this timely, riveting, warning bell of a book can be confidently recommended to a wide readership.”
  • Readings: “This riveting novel has everything: a daring, desperate adventure across land and sea; impossible familial choices; a dangerous rebellion against a glossy, draconian regime; an unexpected romance from the past bolting with tension in the present; encrypted international communications with a dogged journalist on the scent of an earth-shattering scoop; children’s milestones blithely ticking over with all the incumbent emotional collateral despite the strangest of circumstances; loyalty exacting an unbearable price – and more. If this all sounds a bit melodramatic, rest assured the true power of this novel is in its appalling plausibility. That, and the fact that it is impossible to put down.”

Kate Mildenhall


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