... taut, chilling ... Blythe’s postpartum experience is familiar, and Audrain renders it flawlessly ... Audrain has a gift for capturing the seemingly small moments that speak volumes about relationships ... Audrain conjures the disintegration of marriage, along with the legacy of intergenerational trauma and the pain of parental grief, so movingly that the extent to which Blythe goes off the rails doesn’t seem that far-fetched ... Occasionally the second person gets repetitive, and I found myself longing to hear Fox’s voice — or anyone else’s, really. But the chapters examining Blythe’s family’s past provide texture, and the narrative feels more balanced once Fox’s partner is tricked into dishing on their life, even asking Blythe for parenting advice. Finally, someone thinks she’s a good mother.
Ashley Audrain indelibly implants her narrator in the reader’s mind ... Through Blythe’s struggles and the slow-motion implosion of her marriage, Audrain cleverly examines and exploits women’s near-universal anxiety that they won’t measure up to some internalized standard of maternal perfection dictated by society ... There are enough novels about unreliable female narrators and neglectful mothers to fill a minivan ... But what makes it stand out from the rest is Audrain’s nuanced understanding of how women’s voices are discounted, how a thousand little slights can curdle a solid marriage and—in defiance of maternal taboos—how mothers really feel, sometimes, toward difficult children. Women who have experienced such trying circumstances, or even just imagined them, will see themselves depicted authentically, without the judgment and hand-wringing that so often accompanies typical genre fare. Just as satisfying was the buildup to the resolution ... These broader investigations make The Push more than a novel of suspense, the sum of its parts speaking to the burdens we all carry, whether we are mothers or simply children of women who did the best they could, however far their best efforts may have fallen short.
... blockbusting debut about the dark side of motherhood ... Well thought out, carefully crafted, vividly realised and gripping, this is a clever concept novel that manipulates and exploits the fears and insecurities almost every mother has, however happy her own childhood: the fear of otherness, and the illusion of motherhood as a great, beaming, muffin-baking club from which one is excluded ... The Push turbo-charges maternal anxieties with a fierce gothic energy that comes in part from the dark stories of Blythe’s antecedents and in part from the ever-present, primal fear of the Bad Mother ... Lacking the toxic sociological heft of Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, the book can sometimes feel exploitative and occasionally overwritten [...] but given the strong meat that is its subject matter, that is hardly surprising. To say that the ending left me flabbergasted and incensed would be an understatement, but this could well be Audrain’s intention. One of the messages she urgently conveys is, after all, that this reproduction business does not end simply, or easily – or, indeed, ever.
[A] tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family and a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for but everything she feared ... The Push is a shocking, deeply unsettling debut from Ashley Audrain and a story that will linger long after you put down the book. In the same vein as We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Bad Seed, this is a tale of the darker side of motherhood and the horror that comes from innocently, unwittingly, creating a monster ... t’s a story only a mother could tell; Audrain’s beautiful prose rings with truth ... Audrain has delivered one of the most female-focused thrillers yet, an unrelentingly bleak, stark story that pairs perfectly with the gray intensity of Winter 2020. Don’t pick up The Push unless you’re prepared to be pushed to the very edge—those that are, though, will find themselves breathlessly devouring Blythe’s tragedy in one or two sittings.
[A] stunning, compelling read, more than deserving of its pre-publication attention (and deals) ... The tone is ominous without being blatant ... the novel doesn’t unfold in any way the reader might anticipate ... Written with an unflinching eye and a stylistically sharp, tight economy The Push is a single-sitting read, as suspenseful as any thriller, as thoughtful as any literary novel, with an almost physical force behind each of its turns and revelations ... Audrain’s debut is a stunning, devastating novel and, frankly, one hell of a way to start a year of reading.
In the hands of the right storyteller, even the most compact novels can be works of great complexity ... a dazzling exercise in both economy of language and vividness of expression. Audrain’s grasp of Blythe’s inner life—her fears, her hopes, the details that linger in her mind— is so precise and mature that we get lost in this woman’s often troubling world. That feeling propels the novel forward at a blistering pace ... spellbinding ... The Push announces Audrain as a sophisticated, compelling writer, perfect for fans of thrillers and intimate family dramas alike.
... deft and immersive ... Audrain has a sharp ear for Mom’s playgroup conversations ... Unnerving, right? Or maybe unnervingly honest ... another iteration of the nature vs. nurture debate during a time when we’re more fixated than ever on the power of genes and the fates they inscribe. Whatever the sources of its larger cultural appeal, The Push is an ingenious reincarnation of that most forbidden of suspense narratives: the mommy-in-peril-from-her-own-monstrous-offspring.
In this jaw-dropping psychological thriller we witness the laceration of motherhood ... an unexpected, very brave, and brutally honest view of motherhood that is deeply disturbing. The beauty, pain, and disappointments stemming from the demands of motherhood are a shock as well as a surprise for most new mothers. The experiences of childbirth, nursing, rejection by the baby are often only whispered in real life by young mothers. But in The Push, the main character's struggle with motherhood has, most likely, never been revealed with such brutal, raw honesty anywhere else ... a deeply astute analysis of the myths behind motherhood, of the aftermath of the trauma inflicted because of those beliefs, and the fragility of truth for the most vulnerable and unprotected.
Generations of conflicted mother-daughter relationships culminate with one unhappy woman and her possibly dangerous daughter in Canadian writer Audrain’s unnerving, cannily structured debut ... Both an absorbing thriller and an intense, profound look at the heartbreaking ways motherhood can go wrong, this is sure to provoke discussion.
Blythe Connor, the fraught narrator of Ashley Audrain's The Push, hails from a long line of what you might call maternal malpractice: distant, damaged women whose moods and preoccupations have become their unlucky daughters' legacy ... Audrain's book, propulsively scripted as it already reads on the page, should lend itself well to movie length (as did another novel it echoes, Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin) ... not just for literary intrigue but real, nightmarish resonance: mothers of invention till the end.
Film and TV rights to Ashley Audrain’s debut, The Push, have already been snatched up, and after reading this tense, thought-provoking novel about motherhood, I am convinced it would make for an excellent movie or limited series ... Audrain doesn’t offer easy answers for why the women in Blythe’s family seem to suffer from and perpetuate a persistent empathy deficit. The book will encourage deep discussions about the legacy of neglect, as well as debate about whether maternal impulses are innate or learned ... The Push is the kind of novel you might read in one sitting, but then you’ll want to spend the next week talking about it. It’s safe to say that it lives up to all the hype.
A key element to books labelled as psychological suspense and thriller – as is this one – is that they sow uncertainty within the mind of the reader. In The Push, it felt as though that uncertainty was supposed to come from of not knowing what Violet would do next, but more overwhelmingly, whether what Blythe was seeing was real, or all in her head ... I read the book quickly, as I was desperate for Violet’s psychopathy to be determined by other people, and for there to be some kind of consequence to the torment she unleashes upon her mother. For that at least, it should be noted that the book slips by and has a certain compelling element. However, I found this a hard read, leaving me unsettled and frustrated in turns, not simply because of the actions of the characters, but because it felt at times like the story was trying to do three separate things rather than bring those disparate elements together in a way that told a compelling and genuinely chilling piece.
... emotionally devastating ... A tragedy precipitated by seven-year-old Violet is by no means the end of the twisty, harrowing ride to the dark side of motherhood Audrain pilots so skillfully. This is a sterling addition to the burgeoning canon of bad seed suspense, from an arrestingly original new voice.