The thing is, we think that motherly instinct is absolute.
That motherhood is always a gift.
That a mother’s love for her child is a sacred thing that she must keep pure, unconditional, constant.
Because we are taught that way. That you could always come back to your mother. It’s the foundation, the basic, the ground from it you grow and sprout. It’s the heart of your belief, the pulse that keep you going.
So when we see someone, a woman and maybe a child of her, that doesn’t fit the image in our brain, we start to think: something must be wrong. It can’t be. It mustn’t be.
But have you ever asked: why did we think that way?
I think, we want to believe that we are more than just bones, meat, water, and synapses. That no matter how ugly we are inside, how pervert our mind can be, a mother and a child’s relationship is eternal. We want to know that we’ll find a way to mend, to find each other again, to feed and to caress, to provide and to nurture.
Deep down inside, we just want to know that we are loved and capable of loving other people. No matter how unworthy we feel we are.
Everything else that proves the other way should be swept under the rug. Not to be seen ever again.
Etta, Cecilia, Blythe, Violet
The story came up with Blythe under the spotlight. She’s our main character. Through her we will see other women’s stories: her grandmother, Etta, her mother, Cecilia, and her daughter, Violet.
During my reading, I always think Blythe as shaky. Her ground is weak. She didn’t have a good relationship with her mother nor her father. Didn’t have enough time to heal her psychological wound before she jumped into a marriage.
Blythe married her first love, Fox, a guy with perfect family background: a mom who nurtures, a father who provides. She believed that in order to keep her marriage with Fox she will have to be that kind of woman too: a wife and a mother.
She needs to have a child.
So a child she pushed into the world: a daughter, Violet.
Through Ashley’s writings, I could almost taste the bittersweet experience of how a birth of a child could change everything – if not instantly, slowly. The devastating physical change, the mind games, the shift in priorities. How a child that is expected to be the glue of the relationship between a husband and a wife is sometimes – doesn’t work that way.
Blythe, who didn’t have that ‘complete’ image of a mother herself, found herself trapped in this new title of her: a mother to Violet. She didn’t want to be a mother like her mother, Cecilia, surely don’t want to end up like her grandmother, Etta, but what kind of mother she should be, then? And if she did find a role model, will she be able to mimic it?
She wanted to run, especially with the fact that she felt uncomfortable with Violet. But if she say that to Fox, or Fox’s mother, or to anyone, would they listen? Or would they just think that she’s incapable of loving because of her broken upbringing with an estranged mother and a weak father?
So she stayed silent. No matter how difficult Violet can be.
But one day, she realized that ‘difficult’ wasn’t the word to describe this daughter of her.
Satisfyingly Dark and Book-Club Worthy
I read The Push by Ashley Aurdain because one day, I wanted to read dark fiction. I kinda missed the feelings I had when I read My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russel (read my review and discussion here) or any Gillian Flynn’s books. Several clicks on the Goodreads, and I met my match: the story of Blythe.
The review said that this book is book-club worthy, and I tell you, it is.
The plot felt personal, with Blythe calling the readers ‘you’, positioning us as Fox: the love of her life, the father of her child, the center of her happiness. She blamed us, begged us, missed us, tortured us, pulled us, pushed us, hurt us, and forgave us. I feel guilty and useless. Fox is what she after, but I could feel everything.
The title felt perfect to me: ‘The Push’. Just like Etta that pushed Cecilia into the world, Cecilia that pushed Blythe into the world, and then Blythe that pushed Violet into the world.
The ‘push’ that also changed all the lives of the women in the story. Dreams stolen, marriage compromised, feelings swapped aside – all because the birth of a child.
And don’t the mothers feel threaten and broken, when they knew that the daughters could also push the mother back into the abyss, into oblivion, confusion, terror, and guilt?
At one point, you just don’t know which one of you make the other one a monster: is it that person that makes you a mother? or is it that person who makes you a daughter?
I found the ending sits really well with the theme of the book. A very great debut novel, and I would love to read next by Ashley Audrain.
I just hope that a local book club will finally talk about this book.