Testing Maternal Instincts   3 comments

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As disturbing as The Push is by Ashley Audrain, it’s nearly impossible to put down. It’s not exactly like watching a disaster unfold before your eyes, but it’s close.

Blythe Connor’s mother was not an exemplary maternal role model; although they never met, neither was Blythe’s grandmother. Audrain offers some background about these women, which helps explains the younger woman’s anxiety about becoming a mother herself. The pressure is magnified by her husband, Fox, who’s certain she’ll be a Mother of the Year candidate.

After their daughter, Violet, is born, Fox is the parent of choice;  Mother and daughter never bond. Initially, Blythe is certain it’s her fault; however, as Violet gets older, Blythe becomes convinced she’s not entirely to blame. Something isn’t right with Violet, and Fox refuses to acknowledge it.

Blythe and Fox’s marriage falls apart, something revealed early in the novel.  Audrain uses a direct address approach to Fox for Blythe to explain her side of the story. She recounts falling in love with him in college, the early days of their marriage, and Violet’s birth which marks the beginning of problems.  She tries to rationalize the issues with Violet are only in her imagination. When the couple has a second child, Blythe is surprised by her deep feelings for him.

Audrain has crafted a profound, often dark, family portrait. Blythe is a sympathetic character, but the haunting question is whether or not she’s a reliable narrator. The result is compelling.

The Push

Four-and-a-half Bookmarks

Pamela Dorman Books, 2021

307 pages

3 responses to “Testing Maternal Instincts

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  1. Wow. The author should pay you for writing a review that really piqued my curiosity without giving away any of the key details! I figure Violette could be autistic, she could be possessed, she could be changed with another baby at birth, she could be abused or she could be a figment of her mother’s imagination/mental illness. I can create half a dozen other hypotheses just sitting here. Well done!

    I have about nine books queued up for myself but I’ll put this one on the list. Have you read Underland bye Robert McFarlane? An extraordinary collection of his experiences, woven together by the theme for which the book is titled, and exquisitely written. Because it wasn’t a familiar vocabulary or context, it took me some time to get into it and get through it. But there is a reason why it’s on people’s “best books of the last hundred years” list!

    Hope you are doing well, Robin!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. It sounds like an intriguing book.

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