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The Mothers: A Novel Hardcover – October 11, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of October 2016: The Mothers is an absorbing and powerful novel about motherhood, female friendship and finding love with a broken heart. Brit Bennett will captivate you with her characters – who are hurting, flawed and trying to navigate the unsteady transition into adulthood. Seventeen year old Nadia Turner has her world turned upside down when her mother commits suicide and shortly thereafter, she discovers she’s pregnant with the pastor’s son’s child. Nadia finds a safe harbor in her best friend Aubrey, but as the years go by, her past decisions invade the present, ushering in a new wave of wounds. The Mothers ambitiously tackles heavy circumstances, but the hope of these young black women and Bennett’s ability to convey the ferocity of what it means have a mother, to be a mother, and to want a mother, make this novel a resoundingly magnetic and essential read. --Al Woodworth, The Amazon Book Review
"Ferociously moving. . .a lush book, a book of so many secrets, betrayal. . .Despite Bennett’s thrumming plot, despite the snap of her pacing, it’s the always deepening complexity of her characters that provides the book’s urgency. . . I found myself reading not to find out what happens to the characters, but to find out who they are." –The New York Times Book Review
“Ms. Bennett allows her characters to follow their worst impulses, and she handles provocative issues with intelligence, empathy and dark humor. Her risk-taking pays off.” –The New York Times
"[A] compelling debut." –The New Yorker
"Delivers lines that you'll want to savor and read out loud — because it's a story about secrets and betrayals, and part of the pleasure is your own sighs and gasps. It's both intimate and epic in scope. . .It hums along at a brisk, emotional pace — the kind of story that feels like it's moving fast, but really, it's moving deep." –NPR
"[Bennett’s] storytelling does what all truly good fiction does: it draws you in and, on a universal level, connects with you and makes you think. . .The Mothers is a thought-provoking novel that will resonate long after it is read.” –USA Today
"A fantastic debut novel. . .Some novels take place as you read them, while others grow more complicated as you think back on them. Bennett has written that rare combination: a book that feels alive on the page and rich for later consideration. . .Bennett is a writer to watch." –The Washington Post
"One of the most exciting debuts of the fall." –LA Times
"Luminous. . .engrossing and poignant, this is one not to miss." –People
"[A] striking debut. . .America needs more books like The Mothers, which quietly, but critically, deepens our appreciation of the black experience, and expands our collective understanding of what it means now to be growing up and grasping for direction and affection." –O Magazine
"With echoes of James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain, The Mothers is not your typical coming-of-age novel: It begins with Nadia’s abortion, an experience often absent from our culture’s stories, and goes on to look at how women step in to nurture – and sometimes betray – one another." –Vogue
"Brit Bennett comes charging out of Oceanside, California, with her stunning debut, The Mothers, a refreshingly fast-paced story of young love, race, and religious hypocrisy." –Vanity Fair
"Bennett’s hypnotic writing hooks you from the very beginning and never lets you go in this spine-tingling study of destiny." –Essence
"The Mothers isn’t about the consequences of decisions, but the repercussions of keeping secrets. . .funny, generous, and brightly written." –GQ
"The Mothers is a beautifully written, sad and lingering book – an impressive debut for such a young writer." –The Guardian
"A magical and startlingly realistic account of how powerfully our pasts can haunt us into adulthood—no matter how far we try to run from home." –Harper’s Bazaar
"Gripping. . .the twenty-first century answer to Toni Morrison’s Sula. . .displays the same complexity in its portrayal of a pair of girlfriends as they grow together, and then apart, in a tight-knit African American community." –Elle
"As much as THE MOTHERS is steeped in black culture, it’s also pointedly, poignantly universal in its depiction of young love and friendship and hard choices. Maybe that qualifies as revolutionary, or maybe it’s just a really good novel, one that makes all the mess and magic of being young feel both new and familiar in the best kind of way." –Entertainment Weekly
"Stunning… this heartbreaking coming of age tale takes a brutally honest look at how the decisions of our past can haunt us well into adulthood, no matter how far we try to distance ourselves." – Real Simple
"As her flawed, lovable characters make decisions they regret and deal with the consequences, Bennett unravels their tangled lives with a devastating elegance." –The Houston Chronicle
“[An] extraordinary novel, which mines human relationships so deeply and with such empathy… powerful.” –The Boston Globe
"A bracing, heartfelt debut about family, motherhood and friendship, grief and healing and how all of these elements and our own shaky decisions constantly reshape our lives." –The Miami Herald
"Shows remarkable confidence, flair and wisdom." –Seattle Times
“Don’t keep this beautifully written coming-of-age story to yourself.” —Newsday
“Bennett’s evocation of the way her characters are haunted by their families’ pasts, her depiction of unbridled, damaging passion, and her masterful orchestration of different voices are techniques reminiscent of the great Toni Morrison.” –Dallas Morning News
"What [Bennett] has done is fulfill the both simple and impossibly difficult mandate of any storyteller: to create a world her readers believe in and care about and draw meaning from…Extraordinary…You should be reading it." –Brooklyn Magazine
"The book tells its biggest secret right away. But what happens after is more interesting. Think: the small-town drama of "Friday Night Lights" and the 'what ifs' of "Sliding Doors."–The Skimm
"Amid roiling arguments about privilege, appropriation, and race, the 26-year-old writer — author of essays on all of the above — has written a first novel exactly for its time." –Vulture
"A smart, insightful story about the unique ways in which women need one another, the ways only women are capable of hurting each other, and how a decision you make when you're young can ripple like a bullet through the rest of your life — whether you regret it, or not." –Refinery29
"The sad beauty of. . .The Mothers [is that] the characters’ pasts and deeper desires may be obfuscated by time. . . The Mothers brims with psychological insight and thoughtful commentary on the pain of loss and what motivates us to take actions maligned with our beliefs." –Huffington Post
"Brit Bennett is so bracingly talented on the page. . . [The Mothers is] astute and absorbing and urgent." –Jezebel
“A masterwork of modern fiction.” –Fusion
"Bennett's masterful first novel takes the reader on a multidimensional exploration of the things we desire and the things we settle for, what cements loyalties and what justifies betrayal." –Blavity
"Brilliant. . .poignant, yet lovely. . .The Mothers is one of those novels you truly don’t want to put down." –LitHub
“Bennett illuminates [her characters’] psychologies with the same delicate sense of economy, probing for the ways that their experiences produce complex emotional states only a fraction of which are known to one another — or even to themselves.” – The Millions
"Extraordinary. . .Bennett broke my heart with this novel, with her investigation of friendship, secrets, love, choice and forgiveness." –Electric Literature
"The Mothers is a quiet, beautiful text. . .As a reader, it is easy to trust where Bennett is taking you. Surrender is necessary, but with someone who can craft stories as skillfully as she can, it isn’t painful." –The Rumpus
"Brit Bennett is the real thing. The Mothers is a stellar novel — moving, thoughtful. Stunning. I couldn’t put it down. I’m so excited to have this brilliant new voice in the world." –Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn
"Brit Bennett’s debut novel The Mothers has stayed with me since I first read it, the words and the intimacy of the prose seeping into my pores… There is a real tenderness to how Bennett tells this story and to how she writes these characters who are so richly fleshed out, so unbearably human." –Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist and An Untamed State
"What haunted me the most about this novel was the way it made a presence out of absence. It gave nothingness teeth and weaponized shadows. I thought I was escaping the current political climate, but I wasn’t. Part of what makes The Mothers a stunning novel is its exploration of kinship and primary bonds. Our relationship to country is as fraught as our relationship to kin." –Carrie Brownstein, author of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
"Brit Bennett's masterful debut is brimming with unforgettable scenes and the sort of keenly-observed, precise language that makes you look at your own relationships anew. Told with the wisdom of a seasoned, compassionate storyteller, The Mothers is a novel about community, friendship, grief and growth. The two women at the center of this novel are characters you will find yourself thinking about long after you've turned the last page-- they pull you in close and never let you go. Bennett is a brilliant and much-needed new voice in literature." –Angela Flournoy, author of National Book Award-finalist The Turner House
"Brit Bennett’s The Mothers is a brilliant exploration of friendship, desire, inheritance, the love we seek, and the love we settle for. It is the kind of book that from its first page seduces you into knowing that the heartbreak coming will be worth it." –Danielle Evans, author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
"Brit Bennett’s The Mothers is an engaging and assured debut novel of depth, and introspective power. It succeeds as a brilliant study of a modern black woman, and as a lyrical and majestic portrait of her place in society." –Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fishermen
"Wonderful – warm and tender and necessary." –Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing
"Conveys the complexities and challenges of young love with refreshing honesty and beautiful sentences. I cared about Brit Bennett's characters, and the choices they made, and couldn’t stop reading this remarkable debut." –Vendela Vida, author of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty
"How do I start to describe The Mothers? Visceral? Riveting? Heart-wrenching? In the end this novel is all three and then some… Each line that Bennett produces cracks open with more intensity in order to ask over and over again: What if? The past and the present converge with each blossoming subplot until you begin to wonder what "mistakes" you've made in the past that changed your future, and whether or not you will have to grapple with them. The Mothers is a rollercoaster ride that picks up very quickly even while maintaining its complexity as it moves through the interwoven journeys of Brit Bennett's unforgettable characters." –Morgan Jerkins, Book of the Month
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Top Customer Reviews
This story is m mostly told from the point of view Nadia, a highly intelligent, determined yet conflicted, complicated young lady and also told from the point of view of a group of "Church Mothers" from a very tight knit church called Upper Room. There are chapters featuring other points if view but it's mostly Nadia and the Mothers.
When Nadia Turner is 17 years old she loses her mother. She and her mother were very close so she is completely devastated. Her father, Robert, is so caught up in his own grief that he seems to forget that he's solely response for a 17 year old girl who may be handling her loss in self-destructive ways.
To deal his wife's untimely death, Robert turns to the church where the Turner family has always worshipped and his late wife was a very active member. Robert finds a sense of purpose spending his time helping wherever he is needed.
Upper Room is more than just a place to spend an hour on Sunday mornings, to its members, it their community. Many members are there daily, considering the church to be their family. The pastor and his family are all but treated like royalty. In fact, the pastor's wife is referred to as 'the first lady.'
The "Church Mothers" are the older ladies who have been involved with the church for as long as anyone can remember. They basically devote their lives to taking care of church business; running bake sale etc, praying daily for the members in need and gossiping about members - of course they don't consider it gossip, they think of it as sharing concerns and looking for opportunities to pray for others. Nonetheless, it's gossip.
The book opens following Nadia though the rough months right after her mother dies when she forms bonds that will stay with her for the rest of her life and makes a mistake that will also follow her through her life.
A lot of very 'real life' drama ensures making it hard to put the book down and hard not to take sides and pick favorites.
WHAT I LOVED:
I really loved the characters. They were very human and flawed. None were bad but they all made their share of mistakes.
The "Church Mothers" were so real to me and probably anyone who grew up entrenched in a church community. They are basically well meaning ladies who set the standards for what is considered acceptable church behavior, church attire and church etiquette. Every Sunday morning across the US, mothers are straightening hair bows, combining down cow licks and reminding children to mind their P;s and Q's, all n an effort to get a nod of approval from these ladies.
The story line was relevant, interesting and sucked me right in. It was hard to put it down.
I both loved and hated that the ending didn't tie things up in an easy to swallow little package.
WHAT I DIDN'T LOVE
There wasn't a lot to not love. I really don't enjoy books where the story line seems out line with reality and where characters do things that seem unbelievable. This book felt very authentic. I guess if I had to complain, it was a little short.
The 3 major characters all transitioned between likeable and unlikeable throughout the story. Nadia and Luke, most often.
The layers that make up Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey gave them depth. Made you wonder what decision they'd make next or why they made it. Each had characteristics or internal conflicts anyone could likely identify with maybe not in the exact mix they possessed but elements of them.
The past, the present, their love, their friendship, their fears, their feelings - none of its black or white and all complicated by each.
Despite enjoying the read, the ending felt rushed. The author left quite a bit unaddressed and not in an "we'll leave it to the imagination" way. It felt abrupt as if she ran out of time. The last scene seemed like an attempt at holding onto some semblance of one of the main character's sense of mystery and legend but fell a bit flat. And a sizable amount of the electricity building up to the climax of the story fizzled.
That said, I would still recommend the book, 85% of it is was pretty good and may even be a fun exercise to devise your own ending. Where would you have taken the story?
In many ways this is a spellbinding book. Primarily, it is the story of Nadia as she grapples with becoming an adult. It is also the story of Luke and Aubrey. I found the church mothers, a Greek chorus of sorts, somewhat awkward. All in all, a terrific debut.