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  • Mandy McHugh

The Push, Claire McGowan: A Review

3.5 stars I love a title with double entendre. The push refers not only to the central mystery, but also to the central theme of childbirth, letting us know right off the bat what the focus will be.

Told through alternating POVs, The Push centers around a prenatal support group that decides to have a post-birth party where one of them ends up dead. Was it an accident, or was there something more nefarious going on that led to the victim falling from the balcony? The story unfolds over the ten weeks prior to the incident, unraveling the seams of a not-so-perfect group of parents. I liked this book. There are a lot of characters and story lines to keep track of, not necessarily in a bad way, but most real in-depth development beyond the spheres of impending motherhood/parenthood and careers isn't there. Also, none of the cast is really that likable. I'm the first to throw in my support for a morally gray, complex, or ambiguous character, but I found it hard to root for or enjoy any of them from beginning to end. From racism and ageism to jealousy, immaturity, antiquated assumptions, and body shaming, each couple was a study in all the things that could go wrong in a stressful time. Jax, a thirty-eight year old first-time mother, struggles with her competing emotions about motherhood, as well as the critical eye of her friends and family because her boyfriend is twenty-four. Alison, the detective in charge of investigating whether the case warrants the assignation of accident or homicide, is battling her own insecurities as she struggles to get pregnant herself. While there are other POVs, these two struck me as the most prevalent and mostly carry the plot. In terms of plot, we get the case within the first few pages, but the mystery revolves more around who the victim is rather than who did it. Halfway through, the identity is revealed, and from that point on, the chapters read more like an explanation of what we already know rather than the events unfolding. Fairly predictable, and definitely more of a character study than an action-packed narrative. What The Push does well is highlight the realistic side of pregnancy. From a woman's standpoint in particular, each pregnancy and childbirth is a different experience. There is no one-size-fits-all pregnancy, and oftentimes, there is a fear of speaking up about aspects about which we're not knowledgeable or curious about--hence the many relevant discussions of vaccination, feeding methods, maternity leaves, natural vs epidural vs c-section, and the concept of "bouncing back" immediately post-birth. McGowan addresses all these topics, as well as a woman's autonomy, the frequent dismissal or ignoring of a woman's concerns over her own body, and society's pressure to be the perfect mother. Overall, The Push is a stark discussion on the various stages of motherhood and the expectations we put on mothers to be flawless saints. While character-heavy and slightly predictable, it is an enjoyable, thought-provoking read. Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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