“She flinched when she felt my touch… the knot in my stomach twisted. She wailed, thrashing her body against the floor tiles.”
“The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn’t right… Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I?“The Push ~ Ashley Audrain
The Synopsis (spoilers)
Blythe did not have a cuddly, loving mother. She is determined that she will make up for this when she has her own children. As she experiences pregnancy and motherhood for the first time, she realises that reality does not live up to her expectations.
Yet Blythe is not just struggling with being a mother or post natal depression; she has real concerns about her daughter Violet. She feels the baby hates her, something her husband dismisses, but as Violet gets older her worries increase, especially when another child has a fatal accident in the park. She hates herself for thinking it, but was Violet responsible?
As we read on, we learn more about Blythe’s own childhood; her mother left her at a young age and her grandmother took her own life while struggling herself to cope with motherhood. Did her own past affect her feelings towards her child? Or is there something wrong with her?
When Blythe and her husband choose to have another child, her experience of pregnancy and motherhood is completely different. She loves this child more than anything and finally she understands what motherhood should be like. But Violet is jealous of her baby brother and Blythe cannot help but fear for Sam… His sudden accidental death shatters her world and her suspicion again lands on Violet.
Later on, her marriage in tatters and still grieving for her son, she befriends her husband’s new girlfriend, donning a wig and mixing fiction and reality to see if she can discover the truth about her daughter. This might seem immoral but Blythe is broken with grief and her behaviour is almost understandable.
But nobody believes her suspicions about Violet.
This book left me mute for quite a while after I’d finished it.
I don’t (yet) have children so perhaps cannot relate entirely to Blythe, our narrator. As she discusses pregnancy and the first few weeks of motherhood, my own maternal instinct was pushed to its limit. It sounds awful. Yet motherhood is too often glamorised and the true difficulties for many women are still not talked about enough. The chafing, bitten nipples; the desperation and the overwhelming desire to ignore the cries for just five minutes… Audrain captures this in a heart-wrenching way.
Blythe has inadvertently isolated herself from her friends. She has no family. No colleagues. All she has is her husband. Coping with a young child is hard, but without any kind of support bubble, it must be one of the hardest things in the world.
Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare and it was gut-wrenching to see her life spiral yet again as she tries to deal with her loss, marriage breakdown and continuous concern about Violet. When she adopts a character to discover more about her husband’s new family, we suddenly see her at her most honest and vulnerable – finally, she has someone to talk to, a friend.
Although Audrain writes well and grips the reader, the use of the second person is not my preferred style; it makes the story very one-sided and it would have been interesting to hear the thoughts of Blythe’s husband, or even his girlfriend. However, this does give the reader nothing but Blythe’s word to fall back on and it is from this alone that we must decide what we believe. The past stories of Blythe’s mother and grandmother help with our understanding of Blythe, but there are still many unanswered questions.
The ending when it comes is expected, but no less shocking, leaving readers unsure what has actually happened, but jumping to their own conclusions as to how and why…
That said, it is a powerful, haunting book that leaves you emotionally drained and thinking about it, long after you’ve finished reading.
Thanks to Grazia and Michael Joseph Publishers for the advance copy and the chance to join the January Book Club.
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