Brit Bennett’s book The Mothers is one of the realest books I’ve read in a long time. So many elements of this book would happen in real life exactly as they are described. I appreciated how she treated the delicate matters of the book with the attention and realism they were due instead of trying to paint a pretty picture or offer up convenient happy endings.
The three main characters Luke, Aubrey, and Nadia all follow their own paths and are affected by the choices of the others. Luke is an aspiring football player who becomes injured and has to get a job and return home. Nadia is a high school student who is overcoming her mother’s suicide and planning to attend college. Aubrey is a survivor of rape and domestic abuse, living with her sister and finding comfort in the ministry at Upper Room Church. Luke’s father is the pastor at Upper Church, and Nadia’s parents attend Upper Church when her mother commits suicide and then her father begins serving much more fervently. The stories of these three are very tightly intertwined.
Nadia begins a secretive relationship with Luke in her senior year and becomes pregnant. She wants to get rid of the baby and so Luke goes (unbeknownst to Nadia) to his parents, admits what he has done, and they give him the money to give Nadia for her abortion. After getting the abortion everyone moves on but wonders what might have been.
Mothers are all throughout this novel. Nadia as a former mother. The effects of her mother’s suicide. Aubrey’s mother’s decision to stay with her rapist and abuser, necessitating her escape. Luke’s mother’s decision to fund the abortion. And throughout the book we hear commentary from a heavenly “WE,” the matriarchs of the church, the older ladies who have seen things.
I saw myself in Aubrey; escaping a past that I have to try to be better than. I saw myself in Nadia; making tough choices in order to better myself but also still wondering what might have been, constantly in motion and wandering. I saw myself as Luke, a could-have-been that has to find a way to redefine my life to match my current reality. Tackling all these personal journeys is difficult enough, but doing it in the midst of a close knit community that is all too enthusiastic about being nosey and offering judgement makes living very tough and complicated.
This book was a beautiful read; my only complaint was that it was not another world for me, not an escape. Echoes of my own experience resonated throughout the pages and there were some chapters when I began crying without realizing it, remembering something from my past. I’m sure that tonight I will dream of this book, and wake up with tears wet on my cheeks.