Book Review:The Mothers, by Brit Bennett.
Recently I read a book that I thought merits some discussion in the pro-life community. The book is The Mothers, a debut novel by 26 year old Brit Bennett, and when it came out in October it was immediately hailed as “a dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice.” (Goodreads). The short summary on Goodreads says, “The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community — and the things that ultimately haunt us most.”
It sounded good, and so my book club picked this book to read in the month of December. To my surprise, the “secret” in the book is that the 17- year old protagonist, Nadia, has an abortion after a “fling” with the son of her church’s pastor.
Now, let me say up front that although this takes place within a modern day African-American church community in Southern California, this is not a “Christian fiction book by any stretch of the imagination. There is vulgar language and some explicitly sexual scenes, so if that bothers you than don’t read the book. But I think it is worth us as a pro-life community knowing about this book, because it could be a tool we use to help people see the issue of abortion in a deeper light than most of our culture does.
What struck me about the book was that it was about a teenage girl having an abortion, but it explores the issue from a different viewpoint than the usual cultural narrative. Mostly popular culture will tell us that although abortion might be seen as a “bad” thing, it is the best option for woman facing an unexpected pregnancy. So really, it is portrayed as a good thing, right? And woe betide anyone who dares to say there is anything negative about abortion at all.
In The Mothers, Nadia has the abortion in secrecy (or so she thinks, [SPOILER ALERT] in reality the money comes from her boyfriend’s parents - yes, the pastor and his wife) and the whole book unfolds as an exploration of the ramifications of that choice. And what I find really interesting is that the baby’s father, Luke, is portrayed with his own regrets as well. He didn’t want Nadia to have the abortion, and he is haunted by the child he never got a chance to father.
Nadia, too, is haunted by Baby (her name for the child). She sees him as a boy (although of course she doesn’t know) over the five years that the novel takes place, growing up and reaching various milestones.
There is lots going on in this book, and it isn’t just about an abortion and the consequences it brings. But it is a large part of the plot. I found that the issue was handled well. There are no stereotypical crazy pro-lifers in it, for example. Or nasty church people, although certainly there are Christians in the book who make some very bad decisions, indeed. But that can be real life, too, right? We know that the rates of abortion among people confessing to be Christians are not that different from their secular counterparts. I particularly appreciated the positive role a pregnancy centre counsellor had in helping Luke understand the reasons for his sadness.
I think it's important for us as pro-life people to be aware of things in popular culture that can impact the narrative on abortion, either negatively (which is usually the case!) or positively (a pleasant surprise here). This is a book with a lot of “buzz”, which means that lots of your co-workers and friends are likely to read it. It would be a great way to talk about the lingering after-effects of abortion, and as well the effects of abortion on the fathers, who are so often left out of the conversation.