The Mothers by Brit Bennett

The Mothers: A Novel - Brit Bennett

I’ve been doing research for my upcoming novel, the good kind that means I can read a load of books (guilt free!) that concern the topic I’m going to write about. My novels going to have a sub-plot concerning the recent referendum that just took place in the south of Ireland, namely about repealing the eight amendment. It’s a contentious issue at the best of times, so I’m not going to go on about it here, except to say this book was one of the top one’s that supposedly treated the issue realistically. And I can confirm that it definitely did treat it realistically and sensitively, at that.

 

The story is set within a contemporary black community in Southern California and concerns Nadia, a seventeen-year-old girl who’s just lost her mother to suicide. In her grief-stricken state she takes up with the local pastor’s son, Luke. The pregnancy that results and the subsequent cover-up has a ripple affect that’s felt throughout the years and effects many relationships. Nadia’s best friend, Aubrey, becomes an integral part of the story a bit later on and even her relationship with the former is affected by the decisions made in her youth.

 

I couldn’t believe this was a debut novel and had to keep reminding myself of that fact. It kept a steady footing throughout and wove together seemingly isolated incidents in a way that felt very authentic.

 

I did have a few issues with it, even though I thought it was well done, such as the tendency to show rather than tell. I find this indicative of how much I love and think about a book after I’ve set it down. It’s so much more fulfilling as a reader to draw your own conclusions from the evidence, rather than being led there. Secondly, while Aubrey (Nadia’s best friend) was rather sweet, she didn’t fare particularly well when having to rely on her own esteem, rather than when she was reflected through Nadia. Luke, who was very much key to the narrative, also struggled to assert himself adequately. Every character seemed to falter when operating solo of Nadia and since this was written in third person multiple, it was felt quite viscerally. I would love to have seen how this book read in first person. I think it may have been ever-so-slightly stronger.

 

The religious theme was woven throughout, but at no time did it become preachy. Most of the main characters were involved in the church, but there was never that intrusive feeling you sometimes get. Nadia didn’t even seem particularly religious, neither did Luke.

 

The novel was more about an abstract notion rather than a concrete one, the what if’s in life and if they can sometimes mean more than reality.