The Mothers by Brit Bennett
I follow the new literary fiction releases as much as I can, and last year, Brit Bennett’s debut novel The Mothers made it on a LOT of lists. I quickly put in a library hold, because I figured that so many people giving it raves would not steer me wrong.
Oh, man. This book just did not grab me at all, and in fact, I’m puzzled why so many liberal-minded friends and critics raved about it. I mean, I grew up a pro-life Christian, and am still a practicing Christian and *I* thought this book was terribly ham-fisted.
Here’s the premise: Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey get twisted into each other’s lives over the period of eight years with a secret Nadia carries. Aubrey’s absent mother, Nadia’s dead mother (from suicide), and Luke’s overbearing pastor’s wife mother, all influence their children’s lives, even if only one is a major player. The first-person plural voice features largely with a chorus of mothers from The Upper Room, the church where all these individuals converge.
The premise was fantastic, and the voice of the mothers as a sort of Greek chorus was original and innovative. But the writing was just not subtle at all. It swept away the mother-daughter relationships, already neglected in so much of literature, and focused firmly on the love triangle, which was neither interesting nor fulfilling. And we have to talk about the abortion regret, you guys. A character in the book gets an abortion at 17, because, you know, she’s 17, not marrying the guy, and going to college. She spends the next ten years obsessing over the baby and his phantom growth. I get experiencing regret and remorse and thinking about what-ifs. But considering the character’s ambition and drive, it just didn’t make sense. At all. What could have been a truly interesting and nuanced story read like a pro-life movement pamphlet. So far, this is my disappointment of 2017 (reading-wise. Politically, it’s been a garbage dumpster fire of bad news, but that’s another topic for another time).