March 3, 2017

The Mothers, by Britt Bennett

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It's been a while since I dedicated an entire post to a single book. It's also been a while since I've read a book that I could not put down. I downloaded The Mothers, by Britt Bennet, through my local library's e-loan app, and after reading about three pages, I knew it needed to be in my personal collection, so I ordered a copy from bn.com that day and proceeded to spend all of last weekend face down in the next 270 pages. When it ended, I wanted more. 

The last book to have me this enthralled was The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman, and I loved that one so much I was reading pages in the Chick-Fil-A drive thru line. And even that title didn't get its own post. This book, though? If the only update I posted all month was this entry right here, i'd be okay with that.

It tugged on ever single one of my heart strings, and here I am, almost a week later, still not sure I have the proper words to describe it. But i'll try.

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"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."
----

The story follows three main characters, two young women and one young man, from their teenage years through young adulthood. "Motherhood" is the general thread that weaves each piece of the narrative together, in various senses of the word, and the way Bennett explores what it means to be a mother is nothing short of magnificent. With lines like the ones quoted above, the whole novel pulls on practically all of your senses, a difficult feat (in my opinion) for prose.

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"We have all loved an ain't-shit man. No Christian way of putting it. 


There are two types of men in the world: men who are and men who ain't about shit. You used to be able to spot an ain't-shit man a lot easier. At pool halls and juke joints, speakeasies and rent parties and sometimes in church, snoring in the back pew. The type of man our brothers warned us about because he was going nowhere and he would treat us bad on the way to that nowhere. But nowadays? Most of these young men ain't shit to us. Swaggering around downtown, drunk and swearing, fighting outside nightclubs, smoking reefer in their mamas' basements. When we were girls, men who wanted to court us sipped coffee in the living room with our parents first. Nowadays, a young man fools around with any girl who's willing and if she gets in trouble -- well...

A girl nowadays has to get nice and close to tell if her man ain't shit and by then, it might be too late. 

No shame in loving an ain't-shit man, long as you get it out your system good and early. A tragic woman hooks into an ain't-shit man, or worse, lets him hook into her. He will drag her until he tires. He will climb atop her shoulders and her body will sag from the weight of loving him."
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There are so many moments where the story spoke to the intimate struggles of a young woman's growth. The above excerpt is just one example, but it was too perfect for me not to post it somewhere in this space. I found myself saying "amen" quite a few times.

After finishing the book, I googled the author (naturally), and realized I had just missed her book tour stop here in Atlanta, which sucks, because I would've really loved to attend a live reading. For now, I guess I'll just have to relish in the impression it made and look forward to re-reading it some time in the future.

Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of The Mothers. Thank me later.



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