‘The Push’ is the new ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ for pregnant women

This book should come with a warning label! “The Push” by Ashley Audrain (Pamela Dorman Books), out now, is a buzzy debut novel that packs quite a few punches. With shades of “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” the 2003 Lionel Shriver book about a beyond-troubled teen who commits a school massacre, this GMA Book Club pick for January is a compulsively readable novel that should be avoided by expectant mothers and anyone with a newborn baby. (Everyone else, proceed at your own risk!) 

When she becomes pregnant, Blythe Connor is determined to be the kind of warm, caring mother she herself never had. In the thick fog of new motherhood and all its sleepless nights, Blythe becomes convinced there is something wrong with her daughter Violet. As Violet gets older, that feeling only grows: Too many “accidents” seem to happen whenever Violet is around, too many children suddenly falling off playground structures, too many household items destroyed, all met with a cold stare that seems creepily mature beyond her years. Her husband Fox thinks it’s all in Blythe’s head, a byproduct of missed sleep and maternal hormones, perhaps. Blythe begins to question herself and her own sanity, wondering if she’s imagining things. When her son Sam is born, it is what she always imagined motherhood would be; the mother-son bond is blissful and strong. But when something terrible happens that confirms Blythe’s fears about Violet, her life goes off the rails. 

“My experience of motherhood was nothing like that of the mother in the book. I love my children,” Audrain, who landed “The Push” in a reported $3 million two-book deal, recently told Toronto Life. “They are totally normal, and the book is so much darker than anything I went through. At the same time, I wanted to push back against the narrative that motherhood is always this natural, blissful thing. We’re meant to believe that we’re automatically going to love our child. We’re going to like who they become, and we’re going to have this magical connection. The question that drove me was: What if we don’t?”

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