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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

The Push, Ashley Audrain: A Review

This will easily be one of the best books I read this year. I've had this one on my radar since I saw it available on NetGalley, so I was thrilled to finally get my hands on a copy and quickly dove in.

Blythe wants to want to be mother, but motherhood is nothing like she expects. From the pregnancy to the first days after childbirth, she's surrounded by women who seem to know how to do things better, with more joy, and with a never-ending supply of love. She struggles to attach, and when Violet displays questionable behavior, she finds herself wondering if there's something wrong with her or with Violet. Is she a monster? Or is there something wrong with her daughter? I cannot express how much I loved this book. A psychological study of motherhood, we get three generations of stories of childbirth, following abusive or neglectful upbringings juxtaposed with stereotypical portrayals of mothers. We see intimate, gritty, raw moments--things women are discouraged from talking about lest the glory of new motherhood be tarnished by pain or doubt. The effect Blythe's mother had on her confidence and perceptions of being a mother hit me right in the gut. Audrain explores the argument of nature vs nurture, are children born bad or are they made that way, but the analysis is nuanced, rich, and not at all as black and white as people want to believe it is. Blythe's determination to meet societal expectations compounded by the pressures she feels from her husband and her own desires to prove she's capable was so honest and terrifying. But at the same time, there is an underlying layer of horror. Are her concerns valid? Is she truly seeing things or is this a severe form of post-partum depression? The lines become blurred, and Blythe becomes an unreliable narrator even in her total honesty. She hides nothing from the reader, but we're forced to cast our own judgments. As unsettling as it is beautifully written, The Push will leave you breathless. I couldn't put this down and am looking to more from Audrain.


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