The Push by Ashley Audrain – Book review

Well, this was a lot darker than I was expecting. I’m going to prefix this review with a trigger warning as the death of a baby is part of the plotline. Something that is always hard to read about.

The Push explores motherhood from the point of view of a generation of women – grandmother, mother and daughter – who actually never wanted to be mothers, but all found themselves giving birth.

Opening sentence: Your house glows at night like everything inside is on fire.

I don’t mean my opening to seem negative, I actually couldn’t stop reading this book. It’s brilliantly written with short, sharp sentences and chapters that give a slightly disconnected, staccato rhythm to the read. Perfectly playing back to the characters of the narrators and tense atmosphere.

Meet Blythe Connor

I would be different. I would be like other women for whom it all came so easily. I would be everything my own mother was not.

Our narrator Blythe is married to Fox, but their relationship becomes strained once they have children. A big issue within this is the fact that Blythe doesn’t bond with her daughter, Violet as she expected to – as she wants to, when she is born. This leads to Blythe having suspicions about her daughter – but are these projected feelings or is something more sinister at play?

The story follows Blythe as she tries to understand her tempestuous relationship with her daughter, her overwhelming love for her son, the breakdown of her marriage and her family history that lead her to this point.

The mother’s blood

We get chapters about Blythe’s mother and grandmother too, to learn their story and see how it feeds into Blythe’s and to discover how Blythe is trying to learn and grow from perhaps what is in her blood. They all have something in common – their non-desire to be mothers.

I started to understand, during these sleepless nights replaying the things I’d overheard, that we are all grown from something. That we carry on the seed, and I was a part of her garden.

For The Push to come at motherhood from the angle of women who don’t necessarily want to be mothers is fascinating. Women’s mental health was often (still isn’t always) taken into account when it comes to pre and post motherhood. Through Blythe’s mother and grandmother, this is explored.

What happens when motherhood is forced onto a woman, what happens when a woman doesn’t get the support and help she needs, what happens when a woman desperately tries to be a mother but find it so difficult.

But are they monsters?

I found the use of the word ‘monster’ through the book quite evocative and a little controversial. It’s used to describe most of the female characters at some points, as a comment on how society sees women who don’t want children – like they are abnormal or something is wrong.

But the word jarred to me when it was clear that mental health issues were involved with so many of the characters too. The nature / nurture debate comes into play, as does the fact women were just not getting the help they needed. So for these reasons, the word didn’t sit right to me.

A mother’s heart breaks a million ways in her lifetime.

Again, not to seem negative about The Push, just a personal observation! It was wonderfully written, the accounts of birth and those postpartum weeks are particularly great. I am really interested in books that look at the other side of motherhood: the hard, relentless, grinding one that smacks of reality. The Push does this really well, while taking it a step further too, for that psychological thriller drama. It is a thrumming, intense read that hooks you in and leaves you thinking.

If you’re interested in other books around this theme – I can highly recommend both Little Bandaged Days by Kyla Wilder and Little Darlings by Melanie Golding.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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