"Ferociously moving ... despite Bennett's thrumming plot, despite the snap of her pacing, it's the always deepening complexity of her characters that provides the book's urgency." - The New York Times Book Review " Luminous... Read more...
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"Ferociously moving ... despite Bennett's thrumming plot, despite the snap of her pacing, it's the always deepening complexity of her characters that provides the book's urgency." -The New York Times Book Review "Luminous... engrossing and poignant, this is one not to miss." -People, Pick of the Week "Fantastic... a book that feels alive on the page." -The Washington Post 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.
The meaning of motherlessness
BookPage Top Pick in Fiction, October 2016
It may be no coincidence that the female protagonists of Brit Bennett’s remarkable debut are 17 at the start of the story: This was Bennett’s age when she first began writing The Mothers. Now, after nearly a decade of work, Bennett has completed a mature and moving masterpiece about the indelible bond between mothers and daughters and what it means for motherless girls to grow into women.
We meet Nadia Turner during her senior year of high school. It should be a time of excitement and anticipation, but Nadia is reeling from her mother’s recent suicide. She attempts to dull her pain through various acts of rebellion, including a romance with the pastor’s son, Luke. Their fling turns serious, however, when Nadia discovers she is pregnant, and their decision about how to handle her condition will shape the lives of Luke, Nadia and her religious best friend, Aubrey, in ways none of them can imagine. As the years pass, despite their collective efforts to move on, Nadia’s secret forms an inescapable anchor to the past. The aftershocks of her choice—and the nagging question of what might have been—continue to haunt the trio, threatening to unravel their friendship and shake the foundations of their tight-knit black community in Southern California.
Sharply observed and written in soul-searing prose, The Mothers is a powerful first novel that isn’t afraid to tackle tough issues, taking a hard look at family, friendship, grief and growing up. In a de facto Greek chorus, the united voice of the elderly church mothers in the community who have seen it all narrate the proceedings, punctuating events with their wise and wistful insights. Bennett’s writing is ripe with emotion and empathy, but she exhibits impressive restraint, never veering into melodrama. Moreover, her inspired juxtaposition of Nadia and Audrey—how their mothers have each wounded them in different but equally damaging ways, how they attempt to make themselves whole and compensate for their losses, how they each choose to emulate or reject their mothers in turn—is fascinating, and perfect fodder for lively book club discussions. Filled with compassionate storytelling and unforgettable characters, The Mothers is a provocative introduction to a talented new author.
RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Brit Bennett about The Mothers.