True to the praise on the book jacket, The Push by Ashley Audrain is a compelling read. The beginning of the novel is sure to pique the reader’s curiosity. Who are these people? How are they connected? Why are they acting this way? It inspires the reader to keep turning the pages to find the answers, and yes, possibly finish the book in one sitting.
The main theme of the novel is motherhood. Moving back and forth in time, the story encompasses four generations, focusing primarily on three mothers, three daughters, and one son. Etta begat Cecilia, who begat Blythe, who begat Violet and Sam. The fathers in this story play more of a secondary role, while the mothers are far from typical. Their flawed characters however, are believable. The reader will likely feel empathy for them, but hate many of their actions.
The main narrative of the story comes from Blythe, who inspires to be an author. Blythe is hesitant to become a mother, but with her husband’s persuasion decides that she will be everything her mother was not. She has great difficulties connecting with her newborn daughter, starting as early as the first attempt to breast feed. As the story progresses, her daughter Violet clearly prefers Father, and even says she hates Mommy. Blythe has great misgivings about her daughter. She suspects her of doing evil things, but no one believes her. Blythe feels like a failure as a mother until Sam is born. With Sam, Blythe finally learns how it feels to lovingly bond with a child. Then an accident happens, and Blythe’s life falls apart.
While there was definitely an element of suspense to this novel, the character development was its true strength. Each character is uniquely intriguing. The reader is drawn to their stories, from beginning to end. If you liked We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver or The Other Mother by Carol Goodman give The Push a try.