Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Mothers

Title:  The Mothers
Author:  Brit Bennett
Publication Information:  Riverhead Books. 2016. 288 pages.
ISBN:  0399184511 / 978-0399184512

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "We didn't believe when we first heard because you know how church folk can gossip."

Favorite Quote:  "You didn't know how desperate you could be until you were."

The Mothers, as the title might suggest, is a book all about motherhood. It's about the mothers who give birth, mothers who love, mothers who don't, mothers who abandon, and those who would do almost anything to be a mother. The concept is explored both in the lives of characters and in the abstract ides of motherhood:
  • Nadia is a young woman whose mother commits suicide. (Note:  This fact is not a spoiler.) Nadia is an only child left behind to cope with her grief.
  • Nadia herself becomes a mother but makes a choices that haunts her life. (Note: Also not a spoiler.)
  • Aubrey is a young woman betrayed by her own mother and left to suffer.
  • Aubrey's sister and her significant other have never given birth to a child but nevertheless are mothers to Aubrey.
  • Mrs. Sheppard is a mother who thinks she is protecting her son the best way she knows how.
  • The "mothers" are the Greek chorus of this book. They are the women of the church, the elders who provide commentary on this story.
Interestingly, this book titled The Mothers is as much about fathers:
  • Luke Sheppard physically fathers a child but fails to become a father.
  • Nadia Turner's father is a man consumed by the grief and guilt of his wife's suicide. He loves his daughter in his own way but is unsure how to guide her and help her.
  • Luke Sheppard's father is the pastor and, as such, conscious of his position and his faith and of the reflection of his family's actions on both.
The place is the Upper Room Chapel, a church in Oceanside, California. The book is not about a religious statement on the decisions of the characters. However, religion does play a role in the motivations of some of the characters.

The book begins with the memory of a suicide and an unwanted pregnancy. Nadia is a teenager at the time, looking back at the loss of her mother and forward to leaving her small community for a bigger world of college. A world where she is not the girl whose mother killed herself. The pregnancy and the ensuing decisions alter the lives of this small community.

The book continues until these young people are in their thirties. The impact of the suicide or the pregnancy never alters or lessens. I can't imagine that scars such as those ever fade away. However, people do grow and change. Perspectives changes. Life happens. The scars don't go away, but perhaps we learn to live with them and to live beyond them.

Unfortunately, in this book, that does not happen. The characters do not evolve or change - not any of them. As such, it seems as if nothing much happens although more than a decade passes by. I keep waiting for growth, an understanding, an acceptance, or something. It does not come. The entire book remains at the fact that tragic decisions were made, and they altered many lives. This is something that is clear on page one of the book. The book even seems to end rather abruptly because a resolution or conclusion does not come, not even through the Greek chorus-like commentary. Commentary, yes. Rationale and conclusion, sadly no.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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