Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Review: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

It was a twitter recommendation that led me to discovering this beautifully written story of how one act, one secret and one summer has lasting effects on three adult lives. Told from the perspective of a group of older women from a small church in Southern California known as the mothers, who play a role within the church that is not unlike that of The Holy spirit. (And if one wants to dig deeper into the religious subtext, the Pastor and his wife are the cold and judging father, while the child born at the end may just well be the saviour ... for the characters in the story at least, anyway.)

The first character we are introduced to, thanks to the mothers, is Nadia Turner, a seventeen year old girl who is smart, about to be the first in her family to go off to college, and, most importantly, she is grieving for her mother who committed suicide a few months earlier. It is the death of her mother that leads her into the arms Luke Sheppard, the twenty-one year old pastor's son who, quite frankly, Nadia is too good for. Lacking guidance, Nadia is a young woman who has big dreams, is grief stricken and is just trying to do the best that she can with what she has. Unfortunately, this leads to an unwanted pregnancy, an abortion and a series of communication errors that will impact on her young life.

Luke is the next major character in the book. Much like Nadia, his life is shaped by communication errors, one of which leads him into the arms of Aubrey, who is Nadia's best friend and who, again, is probably too good for him, and could quite possibly do with a better best friend. Of the group, Aubrey is the only one who is genuinely religious, and even that has much to do with her past and seems to be sorely tested at times.

Communication (or the lack thereof,) hypocrisy, hearsay evidence and discrimination are the major forces at play in The Mothers and the author handles these with an expert hand. With the possible exception of Aubrey and perhaps Nadia's father, everyone is a bit of a villain as well as a bit of a victim and the author has a lot to say about hypocrisy, particularly where religion is concerned. The writing itself is absolutely beautiful and had a way of drawing me in and convincing me to read an extra chapter or two, even when I didn't really have the time. I enjoyed a lot of the subtext (i.e. upper room,) and the sympathetic portrayal of each of the characters.

Recommended.