...[a] fantastic debut novel ... The genius of The Mothers is how Bennett uses those feelings in service to a story that could take place in any part of American society ... Bennett takes the common experience of unwanted pregnancy and makes it newly significant through the lens of a tight-knit community still blinking from its emergence into safety and prosperity ... Bennett has written that rare combination: a book that feels alive on the page and rich for later consideration.
...both gripping and tender toward each of its characters, if burdened with the occasional overwrought metaphor, which may distract some readers ... The Mothers brims with psychological insight and thoughtful commentary on the pain of loss and what motivates us to take actions maligned with our beliefs.
[Bennett's] ferociously moving debut lives up to its title, never once allowing readers a simplistic view of the maternal pain at its center ... Bennett sets up a delicious trick by allowing the mothers their say and then immediately shifting to the perspective of a single character ... Despite Bennett’s thrumming plot, despite the snap of her pacing, it’s the always deepening complexity of her characters that provides the book’s urgency.
Reading through it for the first time, readers are likely to find themselves seduced by its prose. Its surface is serene and appealing, carried forward by a brisk narrative. But like Southern California, this novel’s pleasant surface begins to ripple the more you linger over it, eventually giving way to something far more nuanced and disturbing than its façade let on ... This novel’s narrative is sparse, turning on this secret and not much else. The power and pleasure of Bennett’s writing lies in her prose style’s clarifying precision.
The Mothers illustrates how rare major books that treat black families and friendships are, where racism and suffering are present in the story but not the entire story. Brit Bennett should not be exceptional, but she is; The Mothers has many strengths, but it is extraordinary for that one miserable fact. Here, at last, is a novel about ordinary black lives ... The Mothers is good, moving and astute, but it could be much better. It's a book that makes much of other people's unknowability, but doesn't demonstrate it ... Here, everyone fulfills the précis of their characters exactly. Each character has one — but no more than one — distinguishing trait.
...this novel brims with uncomfortable love ... The Mothers is filled with hard, beautiful truths and is so remarkably poised that it's hard to believe its author is only 26 ... Bennett gracefully segues back and forth from the conjoined voices of the church ladies to an omniscient that brings the reader close to the perspectives of this novel's other rich, nuanced characters ... Bennett's evocation of the way her characters are haunted by their families' pasts, her depiction of unbridled, damaging passion, and her masterful orchestration of different voices are techniques reminiscent of the great Toni Morrison.
Bennett nails the paradox modern women face: the freedom of choice and the anxiety that comes with that responsibility?—?that people will still judge your choices ... This is what I love about Bennett’s novel: again and again, women make their decisions and do not apologize for them. Even the more difficult ones ... Bennett broke my heart with this novel, with her investigation of friendship, secrets, love, choice and forgiveness.
The final climax is somewhat hastily told. But this does little to spoil the pleasures of this extraordinary novel, which mines human relationships so deeply and with such empathy that minor plot and pacing quibbles are forgiven. Bennett unspools her story with unusual patience, developing even secondary characters ... Bennett can write exquisite prose ... The notion of the Mothers in a sense praying the whole story into existence is intriguing, but more as a cerebral exercise than a felt experience. In part this is because the Mothers are not developed as characters.
Truth to tell, as a work of the imagination, The Mothers isn't all it's hyped up to be. The plot and premise here feel canned. Indeed, much of the novel reads like a mash-up of Lifetime movie melodrama with Hallmark Channel social politics. To a certain extent though, The Mothers is redeemed by the presence of those same sharp perceptions that made Bennett's essay such a must read sensation ... But a work of fiction demands more than intermittently perceptive moments to come to life. Unfortunately, The Mothers lacks the narrative and linguistic energy to sustain a reader's belief in the world that Bennett has contrived.
...a bracing, heartfelt debut about family, motherhood and friendship, grief and healing and how all of these elements and our own shaky decisions constantly reshape our lives ... sets her hooks in you in moments of quiet observation: a previously brusque nurse comforting a heartbroken Nadia or the pain Luke feels at losing his ability to do what he loves. Some of the introspection is unsettling...But Bennett makes us love these flawed and aching characters like they’re our own.
...shows remarkable confidence, flair and wisdom ... Though Luke is never as vivid as the two young women, you read taking pleasure in the characters, and in Bennett’s uncanny way of bringing them alive with a tiny twist of words.
Bennett’s witty and worldly prose belies her age of 26 as she brings a strong voice to her wide range of characters, from the youthful protagonists to the church elders. Her storytelling does what all truly good fiction does: it draws you in and, on a universal level, connects with you and makes you think .... The Mothers is a thought-provoking novel that will resonate long after it is read.
...Brit Bennett’s debut is searing and ferocious ... The plot that connects all these ambivalent mother figures is not supremely original or interesting. There’s an affair, there’s guilt and recriminations, there’s a return home, and everyone is more or less the same person at the end of the book as they were at the beginning. Beat for beat, the structure of The Mothers is a little pedestrian ... What elevates the book are the emotional underpinnings of each character, and Bennett’s lively, precise voice.
What makes the novel exceptional is that Bennett’s story about a young girl’s abortion traces the dimensions of black women’s inner lives with a diamond-cut precision ... Despite centering on an abortion, The Mothers is actually about birth: of friendships and love. It is also an incisive commentary on the ways in which those things can be corrupted by greater systemic and institutional forces, twisting even the most beautiful experiences of humanity into something ugly and unrecognizable.