Brit Bennett’s “The Mothers” takes on a controversial issue that is usually viewed as an issue between two people but can impact an entire community as the secret unravels with the passage of time.
Nadia loses her mother unexpectedly to suicide and begins to ditch school. She finds herself at a restaurant by the beach where Luke waits tables since they live in San Diego. He’s the pastor’s son at the church they grew up in, and Nadia always had a crush on him, so they begin to have a relationship though Nadia is underaged at 17 while Luke is past 18. During their steamy stint, Nadia becomes pregnant. But she has dreams to go to the University of Michigan and become a lawyer, so she decides to get an abortion. She asks Luke for the funds because he has a job, but he gets the money from an unexpected source.
They move on with their lives, but the impact of the lost child lingers in the background, especially for Luke, who lacks ambition due to football injuries and believes a child could’ve changed everything for him. Nadia acts relieved about the decision because she believes her mother’s future was destroyed by having her at a young age and that’s why her mother shot herself in the head without a suicide note. Years later, when Nadia returns home to visit her lonely father, she finds out her best friend is going to marry Luke. The secret haunts her then. How can she tell her best friend what happened? These dilemmas build up for both Nadia and Luke until they explode and ripples shake up them, their families, and the rest of the church community.
This debut novel is heartfelt with the characters dealing with the impacts of abortion, depression, suicide and other everyday issues but trying to move past them with making strives and missteps along the way. It also shows how home may not be a source of comfort because that’s where the bad things happened, and every time you return, the bad things resurface in a different way.