The Mothers by Brit Bennett Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Mothers by Brit Bennett; Riverhead Books, 2016.  275 pages; $26.00 (hardcover); reading level:  adult.

Oceanside, California is a comfortable, middle class black community, but Nadia Turner wants out anyway. She plans to graduate from high school, pursue a degree at the University of Michigan, and achieve all the things her mother (who has just committed suicide) was unable to attain because of Nadia’s unexpected birth 17 years earlier. The fact that Nadia herself is pregnant by 21-year-old Luke, her Pastor’s son, doesn’t slow her down for a minute: she opts for an abortion. Her life will not be a repeat of her mother’s. What Nadia hasn’t taken into account is how her aborted baby (a boy, she’s sure) will continue to tug at her heart and how a decision made in private can somehow find its way out into the light.  This book cannot be pigeon-holed as pro-choice or pro-life. The cast of characters (including a chorus of “church mothers,” Nadia’s Christian friend, a lesbian couple, and a pastor’s wife who brazenly chooses practicality over integrity) views the issue from every possible angle. Bennett’s goal doesn’t seem to be to change anyone’s opinion; rather, she sends readers on each side of the issue away with a heightened understanding of those on the other. This is Bennett’s first novel and her ability to steer her characters through the plot’s emotional minefields is remarkably deft. At a time when the shouting across seemingly unbridgeable chasms has become deafening, Bennett’s keen insights are awfully welcome.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

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