Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Ashley Audrain - The Push

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.
But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter—she doesn’t behave like most children do.
Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.
Then their son Sam is born—and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.
The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.

Comment: I've added this one to my TBR after seeing so many positive reviews out there, especially by readers whose opinion I trust or tend to share in books. I hoped this would be a captivating read and, in a way, it certainly was so...

In this book we follow the narrative told by Blythe, she is a woman sharing her side of events about how her life has been, especially since she has become a mother. We learn Blythe is now separated from her husband and daughter and they are now part of a new family. As the story advances, Blythe shares her thoughts about why this happened, how her life used to be and the memories of situations she can't ignore nor forget. Among these, are the feelings and emotions she went though as certain events affected her in a way she sometimes can't fully explain, including motherhood. But is Blythe's life now just the consequence of her own doing or was there something else going on which caused her to reach this point?

This book is labeled as fiction, mystery, thriller... I think this might have been done to call up to a certain type of reader, because for me this was simply fiction. The mystery and thriller content is more psychological than physical and considering the way the author chose to tell this story, first person narrator, makes me see it more as fiction.

The book was quite hyped and I can see why, more or less. Blythe is a young woman narrating her life and her thoughts and she shares the story as if telling it in a book/letter of sorts she wrote to give her ex, as a way to tell her side of the events which led them from being a loving couple to being separated. This means Blythe is often addressing her ex in most things, making the tone intimate but also almost as if she isn't aware the reader is learning about these things, making the reading experience quite unique.

Writing style aside, there are two elements I feel make this story: the plot itself and the thoughts Blythe shares about things that usually are only shared in a positive way or that we tend to only want to see in the best light, such as motherhood. However, Blythe's experience isn't the rose-colored one and from her childhood and knowledge of how her mother and grandmother coped (badly of course), we see how her state of mind could have been influenced, but is her newborn daughter the best baby ever? Her husband seemed to think so, but Blythe does share how everything made her feel through the process.

I think the author was brave in going the way she did with this story, although she isn't certainly the first. I can remember one or two other titles hyped enough to have similar plots (I haven't read them, though) but in here everything is more or less ambiguous and Blythe can't proof nor explain well so the reader believes her because she's the narrator but the other characters don't have the same POV. I can't say how much more obvious the situation in cause would be in other books, but I got the sense, from other readers's comments, the aim here was more on the psychology than on the physicality of what happens.

It does seem vague, I know, since I want to keep this spoiler free, but let's just say the challenge for Blythe is how she reacts to becoming a mother. There were time I actually felt so sorry for her... society's expectations and demands on women, the tricky balance of having a relationship where both want something, dealing with new feelings and having to follow some as the ones mothers should always have... all this played a part in how Blythe lived through this moment in her life and how it affected what came after.

The chapters are often short, to the point, referring to some specific situation or plot moment and this help in making the story feel like it's advancing. As I've said, I've noticed little thriller scenes, unless one counts the doubts Blythe has over some events and how that makes us feel too. Since she is telling her story, she does focus on certain feelings and sometimes those were quite hard to think of. At the same time I felt sorry for her and wished things were different, I also think Blythe could have gone a different way, emotionally speaking, which might have given her a better drive to change some of the things she saw as problems.

The end is provocative if one thinks about the type of story this is. Some readers have found it ridiculous, others accepted it as the due for the plot's content... I can't even say what it makes me feel but it was certainly food for thought. I just wish Blythe could have had better luck in being understood...
Grade: 7/10

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