They know what it’s like to lack privacy…
Any small-town girl can generally empathize with Nadia Turner’s predicament in Brit Bennett’s debut novel, The Mothers. After her mother commits suicide, Nadia adjusts to the frequent whispers as she walks by. She is pitied by everyone, especially the oldest generation of church-going women – the mothers.
Bennett uniquely uses he mothers as a frame to Nadia’s story, as they know all the town’s gossip and spread their knowledge to everyone, acting as a sort of moral police. However, when Nadia finds herself pregnant with the Pastor’s son’s baby at seventeen, she struggles to keep her secret hidden.
Like Nadia, all small town girls come to the eventual realization that whether you’re playing hookie or kissing a new boy under the bleachers, rumors will fly and your secrets will never be safe.
They’ll do anything to adventure somewhere new, but eventually return home…
For Nadia, keeping the baby is not an option – she is too thirsty for travel and education, while being painfully aware that a teenage pregnancy will most likely deprive her of these opportunities. After deciding to secretly abort her baby, Nadia leaves for college at the University of Michigan and never looks back. It’s not until years later, for her best friend’s wedding, that Nadia returns to her hometown. After her father falls ill a few months later, she finds it surprisingly easy to abandon her new life and resume her place in the Turner household. This leads to the dramatic revival of an old romantic fling and Nadia’s eventual assumption of a role among the mothers, herself.
Growing up in a small town can make a girl go stir-crazy… desperate to experience city life and venture to bigger and better things. While at a young age this seems thrilling, we eventually find ourselves either homesick for the comfort and familiarity that comes with knowing every passing face in town, or, like Nadia, forced to return for one reason or another. We find ourselves distraught when we do return home over new buildings being built and old ones being torn down, exemplifying how we will forever be tethered to our small communities.
They are Eskimo sisters with at least one of their best friends…
“Eskimo sisters” most loosely describes two friends who have (at one time or another) been romantically involved with the same partner. In a small town, without a large pool to choose from, most women find this to be inevitable. My town is so small that I actually became Eskimo sisters with my own sister…but that’s another story entirely.
Nadia Turner is no exception to this strange occurrence. After leaving for the University of Michigan, travelling abroad, and finding a new love interest, Nadia receives a phone call from her best friend from home, Aubrey, ecstatic that her boyfriend has proposed. Nadia is shocked to hear that said boyfriend is the Pastor’s son with which Nadia had conceived a baby years ago. Not wanting to disclose the details of she and Luke’s past, Nadia returns home to once again become encompassed in the mothers’ rumors and gossip. She finds her life suddenly spiraling out of control as she becomes painfully aware of details from her past that were previously hidden, while simultaneously trying to hide these details from the people she loves.