Mothers by Brit Bennett
Have you every been so taken by a story that you stayed up late into the night to read it and when sleep beckoned, you wanted it to hurry up and complete it's task so you could get back to the beauty of a story?
To say I loved this story does not do it enough justice. This could have been parts of my life, my story, your story, especially for those of us who either came of age in the 1980s or are parents of those who were born in the 1980s. She did a great job of bringing us into a contemporary topic and issue without dating this piece to not be relevant to the teens who will engage with me during The Hurston and Hughes Literary Circle.
What an accessible story she has given us. It is for teens, college students, and adults. Mothers is truly a multi-generational narrative about life, choices, love, existence, and acceptance.
One of the things that makes this novel a bit unique are the at-first-unknown narrators who are part storytellers and if you ever grew up in say a Black Baptist Church, those Mothers on the front row in white suit and hats on the First Sunday who saw everything, knew everything, and mixed their gossip with their prayers because they were the keepers. It is not until we get to the last third or so of the book that these older women begin to take more shape and have names, back stories that I can imagine Brit developing into another novel, and a bit of the well-meaning tidbit of information that can change so many situations almost overnight.
My own mother died when I was just four years old. I don't have memories of her touch or her smell, only things that have been told to me about her my entire life, similarities of her that are now my being, but I have nothing to look at except pictures. I am also the mother of sons and daughters, I know that tense feeling of wanting the best for the sons and having them avoid situations that could deter their future and I am the mother of daughters and have a wanting for them that the two central characters of this book do not possess.
How do we mother and do it well, how do we make choices that impact our dreams, how do we ease into life as the second love?
Mothers is beautifully rendered in between the lines of this story that centers Black people in a way that is full, complete, nuanced, and complex.
This book is lyrical, there are so many lines in it that are so poetic that they awe of them literally had me closing my eyes to hold onto the feeling of her words. You must read this book. It was part of my Christmas/Kwanzaa purchases from one of the Black bookstores I've been virtually perusing since the pandemic and wanting to not do Amazon.
My favorite, so far, bookstores to order from are powered by Bookshop.org - Mahogany Books, Harrietts Bookshop, Semicolon,The Key Bookstore, and now, Uncle Bobbies. I am adding that this is also the story of the men on the other side of women's lives. That is one of the reasons I am including this for the literary circle. There are choices that men, teen boys, are part of that impact them and the girls for the rest of their lives and they have to deal with the emotional impact also. Brit, again, does a good job of showing us a side of Black men that is not always explored in contemporary literature.
The author worked on this as a manuscript as part of her MFA program at the University of Michigan. This is her first novel. Her second one is out now, The Vanishing Half, and so far, I'm hearing nothing but good things about it.
You can follow her on Twitter at @britrbennett
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