The School for Good Mothers, Jessamine Chan: A Review
With an intriguing cover and even more ominous synopsis, I was looking forward to The School of Good Mothers. Narratives about motherhood usually strike a chord with me, and I quickly dove in.
Frida is struggling. Her husband has left her, her job isn't fulfilling--nor is it good enough for family--and motherhood has been far from the fairy tale that Hollywood made it out to be. In a sleep-deprived haze, she makes a mistake and ends up being sentenced to enroll in an immersive program designed for bad mothers. What follows is a dark, witty, yet often disturbing exploration of the expected perfection of motherhood as Frida navigates her new reality.
I went into this without really knowing what to expect and I'm glad I did. From page one, I followed Friday through her internal reflections on feeding, sleeping, and raising a baby with little to no support as this terrible event occurs. You want to say this could never happen, but at the same time, the edge of realism is sharp and ever-present. Similar to Handmaids or Vivarium, Frida is given impossible standards and forced to comply or risk losing the only thing in her life that gives her fulfillment.
The story on its own is interesting, but this is definitely a book where the bigger-picture concept is one that can't be ignored. From the constant surveillance to the lack of ownership to the very real fears that women face, I was engrossed in the commentary and the questions Chan raised but also had to step away from this after every few chapters to take a breath. I think many reader who have ever been on the receiving end on Mom Judgment will relate to the characters in this book, and I wouldn't be surprised if this gets picked up by book clubs for the social issues discussion alone. Identity. Race. Socioeconomic status. Gender. All of these are addressed within the parameters of this Big Brother-esque world.
For fans of Handmaid's or quiet suspense with a sci-fi edge in the vein of Vivarium or Inspection. The School of Good Mothers is an insightful read that packs a punch.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for sending an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.