What does it take to be called a mother? I became a mother when my daughter was born, but I have called others mother – other than the one who raised me. Brit Bennett’s debut novel is The Mothers, all about a group of women at a church called the Upper Room. Nadia Turner, a teenage girl who loses her mother to a tragic unexpected suicide, is at the center of this story. She too could be a mother, her life becomes shaped by the loss of her mother, and this story – which spans the months following her mother’s death, until her graduation from law school. Throughout that time, she is searching. Searching for meaning in her life, something to fill the void that her mother left behind, and for approval – for the mother she no longer has, and for the mothers of the Upper Room.
Nadia becomes wreckless after her mother’s death. She is only 17, and without guidance in her life. Her father has mentally and emotionally checked out- and there is no one else in her life. She finds a connection with Jake – a local football hero whose mother is involved in the Upper Room. It’s not the right kind of love or attention she needed, but it’s all she can get. She’s a great student – and has earned admission into the University of Michingan, which is thousands of miles away from the home she shares with her distraught father. Still, she’s counting down the days until she’s able to escape.
Her story seems so sad, and she is so badly damaged emotionally. Even when she goes away to school – and stays away, even going to law school, she won’t allow herself to heal. She is drawn back home when he father gets sick, and reconnects with some old friends. She’s still hurting – and returning to the home that she shared with her parents is a stark reminder of her mother’s absence.
This book was a selection of the Book of the Month Club and I read it immediately when it came to my house. I had heard Brit Bennett interviewed on NPR and knew the premise of the story, and was so excited to read it. It’s a reminder that no matter how old we get, we still need our mothers. Even if we don’t have our real mothers, like Nadia, we need someone.