“Bittersweet, sexy, morally fraught.” –The New York Times Book Review
"Luminous… engrossing and poignant, this is one not to miss." –People, Pick of the Week
"Fantastic… a book that feels alive on the page." –The Washington Post
A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community—and the things that ultimately haunt us most.
Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett's mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.
"All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season."
It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. 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; it's not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.
In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a "what if" can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Penguin Group|
|File size:||578 KB|
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Read an Excerpt
In the darkness of the club, you could be alone with your grief. Her father had flung himself into Upper Room. He went to both services on Sunday mornings, to Wednesday night Bible study, to Thursday night choir practice although he did not sing, although practices were closed but nobody had the heart to turn him away. Her father propped his sadness on a pew, but she put her sad in places no one could see. The bartender shrugged at her fake ID and mixed her a drink and she sat in dark corners, sipping rum-and-Cokes and watching women with beat bodies spin on stage. Never the skinny, young girls—the club saved them for weekends or nights—just older women thinking about grocery lists and child care, their bodies stretched and pitted from age. Her mother would've been horrified at the thought—her in a strip club, in the light of day—but Nadia stayed, sipping the watery drinks slowly. Her third time in the club, an old black man pulled up a chair beside her. He wore a red plaid shirt under suspenders, gray tufts peeking out from under his Pacific Coast Bait & Tackle cap.
"What you drinkin’?" he asked.
"What're you drinking?" she said.
He laughed. "Naw. This a grown man drink. Not for a little thing like you. I'll get you somethin’ sweet. You like that, honey? You look like you got a sweet tooth."
He smiled and slid a hand onto her thigh. His fingernails curled dark and long against her jeans. Before she could move, a black woman in her forties wearing a glittery magenta bra and thong appeared at the table. Light brown streaked across her stomach like tiger stripes.
"You leave her be, Lester," the woman said. Then to Nadia. "Come on, I'll freshen you up."
"Aw, Cici, I was just talkin’ to her," the old man said.
"Please," Cici said. "That child ain't even as old as your watch."
She led Nadia back to the bar and tossed what was left of her drink down the drain. Then she slipped into a white coat and beckoned for Nadia to follow her outside. Against the slate gray sky, the flat outline of the Hanky Panky seemed even more depressing. Further along the building, two white girls were smoking and they each threw up a hand when Cici and Nadia stepped outside. Cici returned the lazy greeting and lit a cigarette.
"You got a nice face," Cici said. "Those your real eyes? You mixed?"
"No," she said. "I mean, they're my eyes but I'm not mixed."
"Look mixed to me." Cici blew a sideways stream of smoke. "You a runaway? Oh, don't look at me like that. I won't report you. I see you girls come through here all the time, looking to make a little money. Ain't legal but Bernie don't mind. Bernie'll give you a little stage time, see what you can do. Don't expect no warm welcome though. Hard enough fighting those blonde bitches for tips—wait till the girls see your light-bright ass."
"I don't want to dance," Nadia said.
"Well, I don't know what you're looking for but you ain't gonna find it here." Cici leaned in closer. "You know you got see-through eyes? Feels like I can see right through them. Nothin’ but sad on the other side." She dug into her pocket and pulled out a handful of crumpled ones. "This ain't no place for you. Go on down to Fat Charlie's and get you something to eat. Go on."
Nadia hesitated, but Cici dropped the bills into Nadia's palm and curled her fingers into a fist. Maybe she could do this, pretend she was a runaway, or maybe in a way, she was. Her father never asked where she'd been. She returned home at night and found him in his recliner, watching television in a darkened living room. He always looked surprised when she unlocked the front door, like he hadn't even noticed that she'd been gone.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wow! Such a great book, it's amazing that it's a debut. Beautifully told, heart wrenching at times, with passages that I literally reread, they were that good. I can't recommend it enough.
Hard to put down! An easy lazy weekend read. Loved the characters/personalities, a true story of the complications of life, first loves, and friendship.
I absolutely loved reading the perspective of "the mothers", (the church ladies) at the beginning of each chapter. The writing is wonderful, the characters so real--- tough decisions, hard consequences, strong friendships. This goes on my list of most favorite books ever!
The words in this novel are beautfully woven. Some passages I wanted to highlite and keep to reread. This is a deep book with characters filled with angst. What a subject to have woven through time in their lives. Loved The Mothers talking their minds and perspective in just about every chapter. This book is sad, so my advice is to have a lighthearted book ready to read next.
Cant wait to see what this author writes next. I loved all the characters. They all had a story and even if they chose the wrong routes, you found yourself understanding why.
I loved this book
★★★½ “The book, I think, is about this central question of how girls grow into women when the female figures who are supposed to usher you into womanhood aren’t there. How girls come of age with that absence. And it’s about how communities are shaped by loss, this thing I keep writing about—how in moments of grief, community can be both a source of comfort and a source of oppression. My main character feels this responsibility to her community yet wants to escape it at the same time. And I was interested in this complexity, as well as the experience of being a young black woman in a community that expects a lot of her, in a world that expects very little.” I found the above insight in this online interview with the author and I think it summarizes The Mothers theme beautifully. Overall, I liked The Mothers and especially enjoyed reading the relationship dynamics written into this story in terms of family, friendship, church body, and a conservative small town. I appreciated Brit Bennett bringing attention to gender double standards, role expectations, and negative self-fulfilling prophecies. This was an interesting read that was both entertaining and thought provoking. If you enjoy reading a variety of themes within the literary fiction and women's fiction genres, check it out! My favorite quote: “Was that all it took, kneeling at the altar and asking for help? Or did you have to invite everyone in on your private sorrow to be saved?”
The story is a bit lackluster and dwadles about.