Review: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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.

My Thoughts:

At its heart, The Mothers is a coming of age story for three teens. But it’s about growing up when you’re not sure of yourself, your choices, or what could have happened. This novel does some interesting things with choices and regrets. Decisions that one person makes can have serious ramifications for others, and Bennett does not shy away from exploring these painful moments. Every character in this book is still processing events in their past and learning to live with the reality of their pain.

“Oh girl, we have known littlebit love. That littlebit of honey left in an open jar that traps the sweetness in your mouth long enough to mask your hunger. We have run tongues over teeth to savor that last littlebit as long as we could, and in all our living, nothing has starved us more.”

I found the characters in this book to be very compelling. Through the omnipotent Mothers, we learn so much about almost every character, and I really enjoyed this use of dramatic irony. Bennett does a great job of exploring the ramifications of decisions and its interesting to watch it all play out. It was these moments that felt incredibly real to me. As human beings, we can never truly predict all possible outcomes of our decisions, and sometimes we must learn to live with our actions. And that’s what the characters in The Mothers do. I also enjoyed the changing relationship dynamic between Nadia and Aubrey. Their lives remain parallel for a long time before finally overlapping and it was interesting to see how their friendship changed because of that.

“We see the span of her life unspooling is colorful threads and we chase it, wrapping it around our hands as more tumbles out. She’s her mother’s age now. Double her age. Our age. You’re our mother. We’re climbing inside of you.”

I found Bennett’s use of the Mothers compelling. Throughout this book, there is a group of elderly women from the church who are referred to as the Mothers. And they function as an almost all-knowing Greek chorus. But the title of this book also refers to Nadia, Aubrey, and their own mothers. Through this book’s title, Bennett is establishing a rhythm of life and a comfortable track for these women to follow, which also lends weight to the book’s central themes of decisions and regret.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book. I flew through it and found myself frequently pausing to appreciate the language better. This book is lyrical at times, and I found the central themes to be relevant to my life, and I’m sure many others. I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoy quiet stories about the dynamics and relationships between a set group of people.

This book is…

heartbreaking

mature

poignant

character driven

accessible

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Genre: fiction

Page Count: 288

ISBN: 0399184511

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read The Mothers? Do you think the “what if” can be more powerful than real life?

I am an affiliate with Book Depository and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

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