It was just about this time last year that I wrote about Fates and Furies, a book I didn’t know anything about, which managed to blow me away. I read a lot of books, and, sadly enough, it’s become increasingly rare for books to take me by surprise in the way Fates and Furies did. Over Thanksgiving, as I was reviewing the “best books I’ve read this year” in my read, I was disappointed at how few instantly jumped out at me (for the record: Rebecca & Sweetbitter were the top two). On the trip home from the holiday, I, feeling disheartened, entered the airport bookstore in search of something special. And, as luck would have, I was actually successful in my mission.
The Mothers by Britt Benett stands out instantly because of its stunning cover. I recognized it from not only the many “Best of 2016” lists it landed on, but also quite a few aesthetically pleasing bookstagrams. I had no idea what to expect, and actually made a point not to read the blurb for an element of complete surprise.
Much like Fates and Furies, The Mothers tracks the long-term trajectory of a relationship. In this case, our romantic heroine is Nadia, the strikingly beautiful daughter of an ex-Marine who decides to devote himself to serving the local Church, the Upper Room, following his wife’s suicide. Nadia’s love interest, Luke, is a would-be football star whose career was derailed by a devastating leg injury.
Nadia, seventeen to Luke’s twenty-three, meets him during her senior year of high school and commence a secret relationship; the age difference bound to spark gossip and scorn at the Upper Room. Luke, a server at a restaurant, is fascinated by Nadia’s independence and drive. When he [spoiler alert] gets her pregnant, she has an abortion and moves forward with her life, but the event affects them in ways they could never have anticipated for years to come.
Bennett takes the reader from Nadia’s adolescence all the way through to her adult life and career, and not once does the book feel dull. I read it over a period of about two days, and every time I wasn’t reading it, I felt as if I needed to be. It is the type of book you won’t stop thinking about, and will recommend to everyone you know (or at least those willing to handle plotlines with intensity). If, like me, you were in a lasting book rut, The Mothers is certainly your one-way ticket out.