Reading and Thinking


Yesterday, I binge read The Push by Ashley Audrain. It was a book club title and I have recommitted to my book clubs. I have been lacking enthusiasm and I have decided to just "get on with it." The daughter of one of our members suggested the title and we have purchased a "book club set" for the public library.

Our library offers sets of 10 books to bookclubs and in return, members of both book clubs to which I belong contribute to buying 1 new set of books a year. It's definitely a win-win arrangement.

The Push is a novel about maternal instinct. Is "mothering" innate? Do we learn it from our own childhood experiences? Can a woman who has not been cared for as a child be a loving mother? Why does "mothering" seem to come easily to some women and to elude others?

The protagonist in The Push, feels that her life grows further apart from that of her architect husband who uses his creativity and intellect in the office as she engages in the quotidian tasks of caring for two young children. She is frustrated by her inability to develop her own career. 

In The Push, Blythe, the young mother, had been ignored and abandoned by her own mother who had, in turn, been raised by an abusive mother who had suffered psychological trauma. Blythe's daughter, Violet seems to display abusive behaviours at an early age. What role does intergenerational trauma play in families? How does parental projection affect an infant's personality. Since Blythe is the narrator, are her observations reliable?

Every mother's early experiences are different. As a 23 year old, I enjoyed sharing our one bedroom apartment with our baby. I had only worked at dull clerical jobs so I did not mind staying at home and devoting my time to our daughter. My husband was supportive and I was able to continue part-time studies at university. Our daughter settled into the Snugli so walks and errands  in our pleasant urban neighbourhood were easy. Had our baby been colicky or my husband self-absorbed, my days would have been different.

While I would probably not have chosen this book, I could not put it down.  It is one of those domestic thrillers that will surely be made into a movie and I'm sure that our discussion will be a lively one at our next book club meeting. 

As it stands, motherhood is a sort of wilderness through which each woman hacks her way, part martyr, part pioneer; a turn of events from which some women derive feelings of heroism, while others experience a sense of exile from the world they knew. Rachel Cusk 


  1. You raise some interesting questions in your post. I think mothering is somewhat innate, but also learned - a combination. Certainly, having an abusive or neglectful mother would influence how a daughter would mother, but one can choose other role models. It's all very complicated.

    1. The Push does pose some interesting questions. I find that the "thriller" aspect of the novel lessens its credibility. The protagonist/narrator, Blythe, is resentful of her baby and of her husband. As a girl, she has a neighbourhood mother, who cares for her and as a new mother she has a mothers' group and a therapist. I'm not sure that I accept that she is predestined to be a "bad mother" or her daughter "a violent child". I remember vaguely reading "The Bad Seed" as a teen. In any case, I'm sure that we will have good discussion at Zoom book club.

  2. Wow. This review and the storyline of The Push kind of knocked the breath out of me. Motherhood is so hard and comes with so many issues that just don't affect fathers the same way. When I went to Goodreads to add this title to my to-read shelf, there was an alternate cover to the book and I realized I had considered this title for our book club read. Thank you for the reminder.

    1. Yes, I saw a couple of different covers. The difference in the expectations of mothers and fathers were and still are immense. My father (of 4 children) would never have changed a diaper and my mother never wanted to work outside the home. My first husband (father of my daughter) worked full-time, studied part-time and looked after the little one while I studied or attended evening classes. Because he participated in the childcare, he bonded with our daughter on a deeper level than my father did with us. I'm looking forward to our book club meeting because we have members of different ages and circumstances.

  3. It sounds fascinating. I bet there will be lots of comments from those who read it, probably shaped by personal background.


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