No doubt by now you’ve seen its floral, multicolored cover peeping at you from store and library shelves. Brit Bennett‘s debut novel, The Mothers, won her a coveted 5 under 35 medallion from the National Book Foundation and stirred up plenty of attention from publications large and small. Not bad for a book that Bennett began writing at the age of 17, but that shows the kind of maturity and deftness with its subject matter one would expect from a seasoned author.
The Mothers opens with its protagonist, 17-year-old Nadia Turner, faced with a cluster of difficult decisions: dealing with her mother’s recent suicide and her father’s more recent obsession with their church, Upper Room; transitioning from her home life in Oceanside to dorm life at the University of Michigan; and reconciling her blossoming love affair with the pastor’s son, Luke, and its resulting unplanned pregnancy. Luke hands her $600, drops her off at the abortion clinic, and never returns to retrieve her, sparking a series of reason-hunting events that ends with Nadia drunkenly crashing her father’s beloved church truck. To pay off the damage, Luke’s parents offer her a one-of-a-kind position at Upper Room: summer assistant to the pastor’s wife.
While assisting Luke’s cold mother in her day-to-day church work, Nadia meets Aubrey, a sweet but damaged girl who lives with her older sister, Mo, and Mo’s girlfriend, Kasey. In spite of their differences, the two motherless girls form a bond that lasts for the better part of a decade.
Unable to reconnect with her father in the wake of her mother’s death, Nadia disappears to Michigan and spends years devising excuses and extracurriculars that will keep her away from California. But a wedding and a tragedy call her back to Oceanside, and her relationships with the people in her hometown grow more intertwined, even as she tries to remain distant.
The Mothers is a fantastic, slow-burning book that passes by far more quickly than you will want it to. But, from its jagged beginning to its bittersweetly triumphant end, Bennett’s novel is absolute perfection. If it’s still on your TBR, bump it up to the No. 1 spot today.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
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Image credit: Benji Aird