- “The Mothers” by Brit Bennett
- Contemporary Adult Fiction
- Read as a hard copy book given to me by the Publisher for an honest review
- 4/5 stars
- Finished December 5, 2016
A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community—and the things that ultimately haunt us most. Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.
“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”
It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.
In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.
This book was a book that was heavily hyped on Litsy and that I’d heard about on a few podcasts. Everyone seemed to be talking about this book, and I was lucky enough to be granted an ARC from the publisher to read this amazing novel. This book deserved all of its hype and more.
The book opens with an abortion. Yes, there are obviously some things before that (and this isn’t a spoiler) but the big choice is an abortion. I actually used an Audible credit for this book and kind of regretted it, only because the way the description of Nadia’s mindset during her abortion was so hard to read. It wasn’t graphic, it wasn’t gory or pushing an agenda of any kind. It just reminded me how absolutely hard this decision is for anyone that makes it. Because of this, it made it really hard to listen to. I think if I had read it it would have been much easier.
Something really unique about this book is that while it stayed in a third-person narrator, it alternated between third-person limited (focusing on one of the three main characters) and a third person Greek chorus style narrator of the elder women of the church that connects all three of these characters, The Upper Room. I actually really enjoyed the church element of this novel. It’s not overwhelming, and wouldn’t feel preachy or anything like that to non-religious readers. However, to people who are familiar with church life, there’s a completely different level of understanding and humor in some of the things that occur because you know them all too well.
I think that the part of this book that people find so enthralling and honestly, so haunting, is that it feels very real. This is all stuff that could happen and does happen, and the reactions and emotions the characters feel are all very real and are all normal. It’s hard to watch people go through all of the things these characters do (it’s not a dreary novel, just a lot of things happen in their lives as do in our own. Ups and downs). But the beauty in this novel is the mastery in which Bennett writes raw human emotion and reaction and has left me hungry for more that she will create.
Thank you again to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review. Also, this book was selected as a runner-up for “The Reading Women” podcast Fiction book of the year, so thanks to Kendra for sending me a sticker for my copy! If you haven’t checked out her podcast, you absolutely should. Find it wherever you get your podcasts, or by clicking here.
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