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The Mothers
The MothersMilla (1)
I know I'm late to this discussion....

But I'm new to BOTM and I just finished reading this book and had to get it off my chest. Especially the brilliant choice of narrator (which I feel often goes unused by authors)

I was left feeling an overwhelming loneliness. For the father betrayed by his pastor, and the pastor betrayed by his congregation. For the soldier, fighting for a country that does not fight for him, who had so much to offer someone who could not accept it. For the husband and wife who loved each other but not enough and not the most, who would remind each other of that loneliness with their very presence. For the husband abandoned by his wife and for the wife so filled with desperation that she abandoned her family. For the girl who lost not only her mother, but the unborn child that haunts her thoughts, the father drifting away across a vast ocean of grief, and the two people she loved for helping her stay afloat in her own ocean while they swam through theirs.

The narration, being objective and almost cold in tone, created a barrier that prevented the reader from fully absorbing the characters' pain, as if we were left to watch from shore as our hearts broke for these drowning, unreachable swimmers. This isolated the characters, and thereby the reader, leaving us not to feel the characters' immense loneliness but our own, surpassing sympathy and entering empathy, a more desolate place to be.

The Mothers made this type of narration possible. Even when they weren't blatantly doing the narration as we see in certain sections, the book smoothly reads in the same voice, one that embodies the inured mindset needed to tell an emotional tale so emotionlessly. They've been through it all, seen it all, felt it all, and perhaps even worse. The have the years of age that remove you from others pain while still being present for it. Present enough to pass it on like gossip.

And yet, they describe becoming the people they pray for, as if the entire book is a prayer for the people in it.

(By that argument and with the tone taken into consideration, they don't "become" the people they pray for very whole heartedly. Though my perspective is soured by my cynicism of church mothers.)

The MothersCynthiaWilliams (3)
Did I miss something?

I thought it may be revealed why Nadia's mom killed herself, especially after receiving the prayer book back. Did I miss something?!

The MothersBooksAreMy1stLove (2)
Nadia's Abortion

Is the author making a political statement against abortion or for abortion in this book? Is she making a political statement at all? On one hand her abortion seems to "haunt" Nadia through out the book, on the other hand her abortion made it possible to go to college, study abroad etc.....

symonebooks (7)
I don't think she was trying to make a statement. To me, it seemed like the abortion was more of a plot catalyst and a link to Luke that she wouldn't be able to break.
JUSTINEHEARTSBOOKS (1)
I agree that it didn't seem like a statement. I thought that the way the abortion haunted Nadia really stemmed from Luke's reaction and the way he dropped her after the abortion happened. The abortion and breakup were tied together in a way that made the whole thing doubly traumatic for her.
8little_paws (87)
I didn't really feel she was making a political statement at all. And personally I didn't think the abortion really haunted her (though it haunted Luke). I thought the death of her mother haunted her more.
ki11erpancake (7)
Agree with both responses. The coping with the death of her mother, the loss of her father, the secret of the abortion, and the relationship with Luke seems to be what ate her up.
The Mothersmcrigl1 (1)
The last few lines

What is the author trying to say at the very end of the book? I want to know exactly what message she's trying to convey.

Valerie (3)
To me it was a way to show that this story is all our stories, that every person has a mother so stories of motherhood are about us all (even if we aren't mothers). I think that the book was centered around a small community and in a way the ending (and last paragraph) sort of expanded to include the reader in a wider community.
Akh813 (1)
A day later and I am still trying to interpret what those last few lines meant. Any ideas anyone?
Kayla (110)
Yes, I was sort of intrigued by how she ended it as well. In general, I really liked the book and her writing, but the ending was somewhat less clear.
AlexisJohnican (9)
I reread the last few lines and I'm still confused.
8little_paws (87)
I also was taken aback by those last lines and trying to interpret them. Was hoping someone here could figure them out! I'll take a second look and venture a guess this weekend.
The MothersBookWorm (11)
Influence of Race

I've found that in many of the reviews I've read, including on this page, that people seem to feel that the author did a great job exploring a black community in southern california. As quite the opposite by definition, a white female from the east coast, I felt that I could relate to the book - at least the sentiments - and never found my self saying 'wow, I more deeply understand what it's like to live in a black community'. Did others have this emotion? Did anyone observe passages that really explored the influence of race in this situation? Or was it more an exploration of a tight knit church community?

Wendi (1)
I think race was mostly addressed through the characters of Shadi and Russell. I For example when Russell and Aubrey were talking about her infertility and he says that he'd rather have a daughter because boys were target practice but, "at least black girls got a chance".
8little_paws (87)
I don't think the author really did explore race that much with this book. There were some sections where it was brought up, but mostly not. I heard her on NPR and she said she wanted to represent ordinary lives with characters who happened to be black.
tracycrawford (1)
I agree. Bennett did a great job of creating the church community as her basis and not race. Nadia could have been a girl of any color. Can't wait to see what's ahead for Brit Bennett!
BookWorm (11)
That makes more sense to me! I felt that way while reading the book, and while reading reviews I thought, did I miss something here? Thanks!
Kayla (110)
This year, one of my reading goals was to expose myself to authors of different race/ethnicities, gender, and nationalities. BOTM has really helped me to do that, as many of the authors are diverse. I think we have a tendency to read books by authors who are similar to us (For example, I read a lot of books by White males or White females). For me, I think it is important to broaden the scope of the authors that I read in order to have exposure to different ideas, perspectives, or experiences. Sometimes, it may feel like these experiences aren't quite different than our own (which helps build connection), and in other times, these experiences may change how we evaluate the world in which we live (such is the case after I read The Veins of the Ocean, another BOTM book). I have recently started keeping a reading log that tracks the books I have read for the year, including the author's name, gender, and race/ethnicity. This helps me to ensure that I am meeting my own goal of broadening access to diverse perspectives and voices. It has really been an enlightening experience.
Nivedita (3)
Hey! that is interesting, cause I am from India and I could relate to the book too. I think Britt Bennett talks about problems with subtle racism in this book, and the problems of young kids in today's world. I believe the reason why you and I could relate to this book, is because its a story about kids and the choices they make and growing up to live with the choices, good or bad.
PurpleHippoMama (6)
I think she did that very well. Honestly, there were times when I had to remind myself that Nadia was black. I am also a white female, so I cannot speak to what it is like to be a member of the black community. However, while there are differences, there are also similarities and maybe that is what the author was trying to highlight.
BookWorm (11)
Well said - and I like that sentiment. This thread is making the book grow on me a bit more - I kept feeling like couldn't this happen to anyone? What am I missing? But I like the idea that yes, it could happen to any community, and that's kind of the point :)
The MothersMorganJerkins (9)
Discuss with us

Why do you think Nadia didn't tell Aubrey sooner that both she and Luke had history together?

SarahStuitje (2)
I also think it had to do a lot with timing. When it was happening she was not yet close with Aubrey. I don't think she ever set out to hurt or betray her. It was just her own personal secret. And once Aubrey got serious with Luke it was almost too late, If she told her then it would hurt her more then anything. You get to the point when you hold on to a secret too long there is never a good time to say anything.
BrittanySanderson (5)
I don't think she told Aubrey because she saw her as her own space of solice from bad feelings. Nadia clearly doesn't like to depend on others and has often been let down. Her mother left her, her father avoids her, Luke abandoned her at the clinic, so Aubrey was the only present person in Nadia's life. However Aubrey's close connection with the church probably made Nadia scared she'd be judged and abandoned again.
MorganJerkins (9)
I think this is an interesting point. Nadia already has a sort of dark cloud over her identity, which is not entirely her fault. She has to carry some of the misfortune from her mother's suicide and it's not something that she can ever get rid of. I suppose because Aubrey is considered to be so virginal and ideal in terms of nubility, Nadia wanted to save herself from more scorn and uncovering of her history. I guess secrecy protected her sanity.
Kayla (110)
I think that Aubrey was the first person who showed kindness toward and acceptance of Nadia, despite the stigma related to her mother's suicide. In this sense, Nadio may have felt a sense of fragility in their relationship. She wanted so badly to forge a meaningful connection with someone else, and may have been afraid to risk her relationship with Aubrey by disclosing her secret. It sort of begs the question, can another person truly care about someone unconditionally? In my opinion, we are often afraid to find out the answer to this question.
Nivedita (3)
I think,Nadia is a strong girl and she has learnt to deal with life in her own way since her mother committed suicide. Her way, is to not let others know about her bad choices or her hurt. She feels stronger if she does not talk about it. Also, she fears loosing Aubrey.
PurpleHippoMama (6)
I think she wanted to minimize the importance of the relationship in order to make herself feel better about it ending. She probably also did not think that Aubrey and Luke would ever become that serious with one another.
ginasaurus (2)
I think part of it for Nadia is that if she doesn't tell anyone what really happened (including Aubrey), then maybe it didn't happen. She starts dating Luke because she was sad about her mother's death, and then she has to get an abortion and Luke doesn't pick her up from the appointment like he said he would. I think that whole period in her life is wrapped up in pain and sadness, and maybe a little shame. I think she felt that saying all of this out loud to Aubrey admits that it happened. But if she doesn't say anything, she can ignore it, and be the girl she wants to be, as Aubrey's friend.
ElyseJody (15)
I agree -- I also think she was feeling shame --(not that I think she needed to) ---but its human nature ---and nothing shuts up a person faster than shame.
Kagsw (15)
Embarrassment... She finds a friend that she can trust and who finally understand the hurt that she feels because of her mothers absence and hurt behind the way she left, but this friend found a better way to express her pain. She just wanted to forget the whole thing; Luke, the baby, and the emotional pain.
8little_paws (87)
Nadia was going through such a bad time in her life when she and Luke got together, and it seemed like her friendship with Aubrey was what lifted it. So when they first became friends, she probably just wanted to put it behind her. But then it was too late.
The MothersMorganJerkins (9)
Discuss with us

What do you think the use of the church ladies' narrative voice in certain chapters reflects about the novel and the place in which it is set?

ElyseJody (15)
First I'd like to say --I really loved the book -- think its a great tribute to the modern black community -woman in general -mothers/daughters -and friendships. Such a huge complex subject for a first novel --really page turning engrossing!! --That said --I'm not sure narrative voice of the church ladies always worked well. I did like being able to see the generation differences and change-in-thoughts --but at times I felt it broke the natural flow of the storytelling.
MorganJerkins (9)
So, funny story--I interviewed Brit Bennett about the role of the Mothers' voice and she said that generally speaking, the old church mothers do not have much institutional power but rather social power. Gossip is a form of capital in this kind of setting and I believe that Brit was trying to depict how although the mothers are "invisible"--we don't know what they look like or their names--they have the sort of mythical quality to their voices. They "see" everything and so I don't see their voices as a break in the narrative but rather as a reinforcement to the powers that may be.
Nivedita (3)
It addresses the problems of Moral policing and the role religion plays in today's society. The fear of embarrassment and shame that it instills in young adults. Nadia's shame from her abortion, and her hurt from the church ladies judgement of her mother's suicide. Aubrey's fear of being dropped if she shares her sister's secret. Luke's fear of disappointing his parents.
Kagsw (15)
I liked that the narrative voice was the Mother's of the church. When you think about the mothers you think of them as wise ladies with great life experiences. Their story and insight plays a major role in the church and they are responsible for guiding and caring for the younger christian ladies. I do wish the author would have used this voice more in the book to pull it all together and allowed the to share their wisdom more with the reader.
8little_paws (87)
I thought they added a community voice, so we could see how the community felt about the issues of abortion, infidelity, etc. through their lens. And also to see how the times have changed since the ladies were younger. I thought the ending with them was most interesting. Oh also, I think it's interesting to see their perspective, cause in a way they could have been surrogate mothers for both Nadia and Aubrey, but I don't really think they were.
The MothersMorganJerkins (9)
Discuss with us

Do you believe that Nadia and Luke were meant to be together? Is the concept of a shared destiny problematic? Why or why not?

Kayla (110)
I did not get a sense that they were 'meant' to be together. Both individuals were experiencing a loss (in Luke's case the loss of his identity as a football player, and in Nadia's case the loss of her mother), and the shared (but separate) grieving is what drew them to one another. I think we have the ability to sense grief in another person, and in sharing this grief, it can be somewhat cathartic. Had the circumstances been different, I do not believe these two individuals' lives would have intersected. While they are now inextricably linked to one another, this does not equate (in my mind) to being soulmates. As an alternate perspective, one must consider what would happen if Nadia and Luke did remain together. In my opinion, they would not be fulfilled. Rather, their relationship may become a constant reminder of 'what might have been'.
SarahStuitje (2)
I agree with this. Some people feel connected over a loss, Especially over a situation like this where there was no closer. It never really allowed them to move forward separately. I think had things been slightly different, Like Luke picking her up and then they break up, might have provided much more closer and they would have moved on differently.
BrittanySanderson (5)
I don't think they were meant to be today, I think they have their deep sense of loss that pulls them towards each other, but they want different things and I don't think they bring out the best in each other. I think they come together because they both feel broken and the other person makes them feel more normal. Nadia wants to be free of family obligations and Luke is searching for that sense of family and belonging. They may love each other but not in a shared destiny context.
8little_paws (87)
SPOILERS: I don't think they're meant to be together, but I think Luke will always be linked to her mother in a way--she used him to ease the suffering she felt at that time, so going forward, when she feels that need to relieve emotional pain, she thinks of Luke. For him, I think he will always link her to the loss he felt about his unborn child, a what-if.
ElyseJody (15)
Amen! ditto!
The MothersMorganJerkins (9)
Discuss With Us

Although the pastor is crucial to the story, his presence and voice are both minimal within the novel. Why do you think Brit Bennett made this stylistic choice?

PurpleHippoMama (6)
The novel focuses on mothers and women. Even though she committed suicide, Nadia's mother is an important character. Aubrey and Nadia both seem to be betrayed by the men in their lives, as well as their mothers, but the story focuses on the relationships the girls build with one another - and other women.
Kagsw (15)
This book was about Mothers. The mothers of the church that guide young christians morals. The birth and adoptive surrogate mothers that shape our values. The mother that we choose to become and who shape the future. It shows the importance of women. Although the Pastor of the church is very powerful and the biggest figure in the church, women have a powerful influence on out lives. The book would have ended differently and not had the same impact if the Pastor, Deacons, Mr. Tanner, or Luke had told the story.
8little_paws (87)
I think she wanted to focus primarily on the women of the novel. I thought Nadia and Aubrey were the real heart and soul of the book even though Luke is a primary character as well. And this book is also a reflection on their mothers, and their response to having children, and less about father/son relationships.
ElyseJody (15)
Also would say the same thing!