2017 Reading Challenge, Book 21

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A book by a new author, The Mothers by Brit Bennett

This novel was like a breath of fresh air. Something about Bennett’s writing style just feels new and different from the things I’ve been reading lately. I fell into her world, and it was a pleasant journey. While some of the subject matter is dark and fraught with potential moral pitfalls, Bennett navigates these issues with objectivity and distance, yet she manages to make us feel intimately connected to the characters and the story at the same time. That, in my humble opinion, takes great skill. We never feel bogged down by Bennett’s judgments of these women and their choices; rather, Bennett holds up a mirror for us to see things objectively and come to our own conclusions. Surprisingly, the characters are so relatable and likeable that even in their worst moments, I felt like I could understand the choices they made, even when I disagreed with them. I think this was what felt so refreshing—right now, my social media pages are swarming with everyone’s opinions and their personal agendas. The demands on women and sovereignty over our own bodies is in a very hostile place. The political climate is so charged that you really can’t see many things objectively. Bennett gives us the facts and allows us the breathing room to make our own decisions, which feels novel at this particular moment in time.

The novel centers a complicated choice made in youth that reverberates throughout the futures of two women. In an odd way, this choice simultaneously binds the fates of both women together while also severing their bond. Bennett manages to write her characters in a way that feels as if you know these women intimately. It feels almost as if you have been each of them at different points in your life. While at times, they make truly difficult choices that may oppose our personal moral codes, they are still so loveable in their fallibility that you cannot help but empathize with them in their darkest moments. I believe this is only possible because of Bennett’s rich character development and writing talent.

Above all, The Mothers remains true to its titular theme, exploring the idea of motherhood. Motherhood is a concept that on that surface appears simple, but has become increasingly fraught and complex as our society evolves. There are mothers in all shapes and forms; there are those who bear children, and those who cannot or chose not to, but take up the mantel of motherhood in other forms. There are women who mother young girls on their journey toward womanhood. Some mothers decide not to mother at all. It seems that all roads to motherhood, whichever form they take, come with certain value judgments attached. So many women feel judged by others for the type of mother they choose to be. It can be an overwhelming experience, which is the unifying element of all motherhood. This novel experiments with the various ways motherhood occurs in our world, and it celebrates the different types of mothers—both the good and bad—that keep our world turning.

 

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About alycemsustko

Reader, writer, catmom extraordinaire
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