The Mothers

I was told what this book was about from a couple different friends. Neither one had it right, which I realized fairly quickly. I am so glad I kept reading, though. Told from the perspective of “the mothers”, the elders of the church, The Mothers is the story of two girls, three families, and one big secret.

Set in and around a generic Christian church, one I took to be evangelical, the tone is set for a clash of values, and morals. Each relationship is rocked by a few different threats. How each person deals with them, and the others react that makes the whole story.

This book is a lot of things. To name a few:

  1. This is one of the best coming -of -age novels I’ve read. Nadia Turner was the good girl in her small town. Grief-stricken at the end of high school, she turned into the rebellious teenager everyone at church whispers about. Her rebellious actions catch up to her when she ends up pregnant by the preacher’s son.
  2. This book takes on abortion like no other book I’ve read. Since the book isn’t narrated by any of the lead characters you get each one’s inner struggle, each one’s reaction – in the immediacy and years down the road.
  3. Relationships. This book is all about relationships. Friendships, parent and child, husband and wife, mother and daughter.
  4. Nadia’s struggle with the parallels between her life and her mother’s. She makes assumptions about her mother’s choices and regrets, and what that means for her own life, and her own choices. Those assumptions drive her choices, but are those assumptions accurate?

The narration is beautiful – you want to meet the mothers again and again as they speak the truth. Luke, the preacher’s son, could be a lot of things, but as the mothers explain his choice of paths, “Reckless white boys became politicians and bankers, reckless black boys became dead.”

The mothers explain the two categories men fall into. When brought up in my book club we all seemed to latch onto this quote. It’s true across age and race.

“But we were girls once, which is to say, we have all loved an ain’t-shit man. No Christian way of putting it. There are two types of men in the world: men who are and men who ain’t about shit.”

So which will Luke choose to be, what path will he choose to walk, and who will be the one that walks that path with him?

An unexpected pregnancy, secret relationships, friendships, and parent/child relationships are strained by death, distance, abortion, communication (or lack thereof). Father and daughter pulled apart by tragedy, mother and son pulled apart by a break in morals.

A beautiful debut novel, it checks a box on my 2017 reading goals to read a book by a woman of color. While not what I thought it was, and not what I was told (I’m certain we mixed up the titles from what friends recommended) this book pulled in early on, and I’m glad I kept on reading.

 

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