Having been excited to pick up a Brit Bennett title, after the acclaim The Vanishing Half received, there was part of me particularly keen to enjoy The Mothers, but not in the way that I actually did. Published by Dialogue back in July it has already been considered a New York Times bestseller. Brit Bennett is churning out these visual novels, with film deals not long behind them no doubt, and she makes it very difficult to put them down.
Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, her first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, religion love, and ambition. It stems from Nadia Turner and her actions that would condemn her in such tight-knit surroundings.
It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old elegant young lady with ambition. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young and it’s far from serious. In fact, it might just be a distraction from the pain of her mother’s passing. However, there is a pregnancy that is the result of a lax approach to contraception—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth.
As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey and her dad, time swiftly moves on. Soon enough all three, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey become prospective adults but very much still affected by the decisions made in their pasts. Luke, clearly wanting to turn a new leaf enjoys the company he receives from Aubrey on behalf of Upper Room, and they end up together, despite or in spite of the Facebook spots.
In bewildering, stunning prose, The Mothers explores grief, what if, the desire for motherhood, abortion and religion, and is such a beautiful book for the way that it treads on friendship and previous pasts. Bennett’s prose makes you visualise it so ponderously, and I foresee a televised HBO drama in the not too distant future.
The Mothers is available now, published by Dialogue Books