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The Mothers
Cover of The Mothers
The Mothers
A Novel
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER “Bittersweet, sexy, morally fraught.” –The New York Times Book Review"Fantastic… a book that feels alive on the page." –The Washington...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER “Bittersweet, sexy, morally fraught.” –The New York Times Book Review"Fantastic… a book that feels alive on the page." –The Washington...
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  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 

    “Bittersweet, sexy, morally fraught.” –The New York Times Book Review
    "Fantastic… a book that feels alive on the page." –The Washington Post
    From the New York-Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Half, the beloved novel about young love and a big secret in a small community. 

    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.

Excerpts-

  • From the cover 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...

About the Author-

  • Born and raised in Southern California, Brit Bennett graduated from Stanford University and later earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction as well as the 2014 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. Her work is featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel. She is one of the National Book Foundation's 2016 5 Under 35 honorees.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 11, 2016
    Bennett’s brilliant, tumultuous debut novel is about a trio of young people coming of age under the shadow of harsh circumstances in a black community in Southern California. Deftly juggling multiple issues, Bennett addresses the subjects—abortion, infidelity, religious faith, and hypocrisy, race—head-on. At 17, Nadia Turner’s life is topsy-turvy. Six months after learning of her mother’s suicide, Nadia winds up pregnant and decides to abort the baby. The unborn baby’s father, Luke—a preacher’s son—gives Nadia the money to terminate but falls back on his promise to pick her up at the clinic after her appointment, causing a fissure in their relationship. Nadia’s secret decision haunts her for decades—through college in Michigan, law school, and an extended trip back home to care for her ailing father. Meanwhile, the slow-to-build trust between Luke and Aubrey, Nadia’s bible-thumping childhood best friend, who knows nothing of Nadia’s past, is threatened when Nadia and Luke reunite and rip open old wounds after Luke and Aubrey’s wedding. There’s much blame to go around, and Bennett distributes it equally. But she also shows an extraordinary compassion for her flawed characters. A Greek chorus of narrating gossipy “Mothers” (as they’re referred to in the text) from the local Upper Room Chapel provides further context and an extra layer to an already exquisitely developed story. Agent: Julia Kardon, Mary Evans Inc.

  • AudioFile Magazine Do the decisions we made in our youth shape the rest of our lives? Brit Bennett's absorbing debut novel, set in Southern California's black community, gets a sensitive narration by Adenrele Ojo. The lives of three damaged teens intertwine and reconnect when they meet again as adults. Nadia, Aubrey, and Luke have 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." Ojo's voice is smooth as honey and prickly as thistles when portraying the gossipy mothers who relentlessly poke at the secret until nothing remains hidden. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 30, 2017
    In a black Southern California community, 17-year-old Nadia deals with the grief of her mother’s suicide by throwing herself into a relationship with Luke, the pastor’s son. The resulting pregnancy and abortion are hastily covered up, and Nadia and Luke go their separate ways. Yet years later, the secret causes ripples that deeply affect their adult lives. Meanwhile, the elderly women of the church—“the mothers,” as they are called—act as a kind of Greek chorus, having their say in alternating chapters, gossip mixed with wisdom. Reader Ojo creates believable voices for all the characters—the church women and Nadia, Luke, and Nadia’s friend Aubrey both as teens and as adults. She ably brings out all the characters’ conflicting emotions and their complicated relationships. A Riverhead hardcover.

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