Fresh Meat: Beth McMullen’s Original Sin

Original Sin, the first Sally Sin adventure by Beth McMullen
Original Sin, the first Sally Sin adventure by Beth McMullen
In Beth McMullen’s debut, Original Sin, Lucy is a bored housewife, living in the suburbs and raising her adored 3 year old son…wait, I thought I read books to escape my life!?! But “Lucy” isn’t her real name. She’s a former spy who was recruited in college after acing a government exam. After jokingly signing the test “Sally Sin”, she starts traveling the world chasing arms dealers. She catches the eye of a rogue agent-turned-baddie, who regularly kidnaps her. When danger becomes less exciting, Sally quits, takes on her Lucy persona, and becomes a SAHM (stay at home mom).

But Sally doesn’t realize that loving your kid is so consuming. She spends her days in a state of “constant vigilance”, even watching the door of her son’s preschool for the entire time he is there. C’mon Sally! Wasting blissful preschool alone time is your sin! But she can’t risk anything happening to her child.

Now, Original Sin is an absolutely fun read. Perfect for summer time. It’s fluffy and often funny, but with an edge—as her spying past does catch up to her. For me though, the real charm of the book is Theo, and Lucy/Sally’s relationship with him.

Theo is a fictitious three-year-old who actually talks and acts like a preschooler! I know! He is neither precocious nor sweet and well-behaved. He is not invisible, either. He even poops. Every time he did something completely natural and childlike, I wanted to stand up and cheer. I know that parents everywhere are irritated by “invisible baby syndrome”. How many books/movies/tv shows introduce young kids only to disappear them? It’s maddening. Don’t writers know that a young child is ever present? And, that parents actually might want to be with and include them in their day?

“Mommy, I have to poop,” Theo bellows. “I really have to poop. I have to poop now!”

Simon looks alarmed. Put him in a room full of armed terrorists and he’s right as rain. Expose him to a mostly toilet-trained toddler and he freaks.

“We have to go to my car. This way, quick,” I say. Simon does as he’s told, staying close at my heels. I pop the trunk of my Prius and pull Theo’s plastic potty from a bag.

“What are you doing?” Simon asks, his voice oddly high-pitched.

“You heard the kid,” I said. “We don’t mess around with these sorts of things.”

“Doesn’t your coffee shop have a bathroom?” His eyes grow wide with realization followed by horror.

“He won’t go there.”

“I won’t even ask.”

“It’s better you don’t.”

I wrestle Theo out of his stroller, pull his jeans and Thomas the Train underwear down, and plop him on the plastic potty. Simon averts his eyes. Theo starts to sing. He won’t use the potty unless he can sing. I don’t exactly know what the song is, something about rain and butterflies I think. It’s a sweet song.

“This is really happening to you,” I say to Simon who stands with his back to the trunk of my car, a disgusted hand over mouth. “But now we have a few minutes to finish that conversation we were having.”

If only my son would poop by himself, maybe I could finish something. At least I can sneak a peek at a book while we’re in the bathroom.

Amy Dalton is a buyer for a large, Midwestern library system. She has written news and reviews for several book and film sites over the years.


  1. Terrie Farley Moran

    Great post. This book sounds like my cup of tea. And your point about children “being” but “not being” in the book is very well taken. I can remember how disappointed I was when the movie version of The Shipping News came out. The two little girls who were so pivotal to the story in the book were merged in one far less important child. Realism works. Realism with humor works even better.

  2. Lois Karlin

    Thanks for the introduction to Beth McMullen. The excerpt is absolutely great. I tend to cringe when kids play too large a role, but this little guy sounds like a real enhancement.

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