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When we first meet Heather, she’s angry about the death of her son, Zach. Unlike her husband, Napoleon, Heather refuses to do anything positive to heal after Zach’s death. She seems determined to just sit and stew in her negative emotions. It’s causing issues in her marriage and in her life.
And then she books the trip to Tranquillum House. Whoa. Good luck, Heather.
During Heather’s psychedelic therapy, she finally admits the reason she’s so furious about Zach’s death. She’s upset with herself. She allowed Zach to take an asthma medicine that may have contributed to his death:
“One of the side effects can be depression and suicidal thoughts,” said Heather. “I told you the specialist wanted to prescribe it to him and you said, ‘Are there any side effects?’ and I said … I said … ‘No.’”
The regret dragged at her face like claw marks.
“You said no,” repeated Zoe’s father.
“I said no,” said her mother. Her eyes were pleading for forgiveness. “I’m so sorry.”
Heather has kept this information to herself for nearly three years. She’s been stewing in her own guilt and frustration. When she finally tells Napoleon and Zoe, it’s like a weight is lifted. She can finally begin to heal. It’s actually kind of beautiful. Cue the inspirational music.
But first, Heather’s gotta deal with Masha:
“What sort of a mother are you?” Masha asked Heather. There was a strange, powerful animosity between these two women that Carmel didn’t understand.
“That’s enough,” said Napoleon.
Yao moved across the room toward Masha, as Heather responded to her comment with a peal of scornful laughter. She said, “I’m a better mother than you would ever be.”
Masha roared like an animal. She leaped at Heather, a silver dagger held high, ready to plunge into her neck. (73.43-46)
Heather is clearly set up as a foil for Masha. Heather is a nurse, so she’s the one who figures out that Masha has been drugging them. She also most aggressively questions Masha’s methods. Maybe not the best idea when a crazy lady has you locked in her yoga studio, but you do you, Heather.
Heather and Masha have both lost a child, but they deal with it in different ways. Heather feels responsible for her son’s death, but she ultimately finds healing in the forgiveness of her husband and daughter.
Masha also feels responsible for her son’s death, but she rejects her husband’s forgiveness and abandons her younger son. Masha must leave behind all traces of her son’s death and forget about his tragic loss in order to recreate herself. Heather is more comfortable living with the pain. Masha just can’t stomach it.
Plus, no one insults Heather Marconi’s parenting. No one.