The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Writing: 5 Characters: 5 Plot: 4

A strong, character-driven novel supported by the eponymous “Mothers,” who represent the local church community as a kind of Greek chorus opining on events in the first-person plural (we) at the beginning of each chapter (cool technique!).

17-year old Nadia has an abortion for an unwanted pregnancy just months after her mother’s suicide. Luke had a promising football career until suffering a knee injury. Aubrey appears to be a goody-goody but is haunted by an abusive past. Through keen insight and excellent writing, the narrative follows these three through life, observing their thoughts, choices and ramifications of those choices without judgement. I think this is what I liked so much about the book — there were no preachy messages, strong statements of “right” or “wrong,” or even characters that were obviously “good” or “bad” — just people living their lives, making choices, and living with the results of those choices (along with community pressure as personified in the Mothers’ commentary). Bennett handles the themes of motherhood, connection, and growing up with depth and dexterity — I’m really looking forward to future work!

Some great lines:

“Grief was not a line, carrying you infinitely further from loss. You never knew when you would be sling-shot backward into its grip.”

“A daughter grows older and draws nearer to her mother, until she gradually overlaps her like a sewing pattern.”

“Reckless white boys become politicians and bankers. Reckless black boys become dead.”

“A tragic woman hooks into an ain’t shit man, or worse, lets him hook into her. He will drag her until he tires. He will climb atop her shoulders and her body will sag from the weight of loving him.”

“Now they were slow and deliberate the way hurt people loved, stretching carefully just to see how far their damaged muscles could go.”

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