The coming of age story of Nadia Turner is a dramatic one. She lives in a Black community in southern California with her beautiful mother and father who has a steady job and a beloved truck. The local church called Upper Room is an important part of their lives. That name is poignant for me because my mother always had a copy of the devotional publication of that name on the table by her chair. Thoughts of my own sweet mother kept coming up as I read.
The life of beautiful and smart Nadia took a terrible turn when her mother committed suicide. In her last year of high school she became pregnant by the Upper Room preacher’s son and having already been accepted to the University of Michigan, she had made her choice. That last summer before she left, she was given a job working for the preacher’s wife in Upper Room and became very close friends with another motherless girl, Aubrey. They were an unlikely pair; Aubrey, having escaped one of her mother’s predatory boyfriends, is relentlessly good while Nadia relies on her recklessness.
It was all pretty irresistible and I enjoyed finding myself thinking, “You can’t do that!” and “She did what?” That seemed to be the reaction of “The Mothers,” a Greek chorus of Upper Room women. So all-knowing, occasionally innocently making trouble, always wise. They were the best.
Though this book is about so much more than abortion, it was notable that every one around Nadia suffered because the choice she made. Her boyfriend, his mother who financed it, Nadia’s friend Aubrey, her father. After Nadia herself made her way in college and then law school, she wondered if she should have stayed with Luke and had their baby. I was made uneasy by this apparent message. Choices such as these should be carefully considered, but I strongly believe in the importance of having a choice rather than having someone else’s choice forced on you.
Brit Bennett, The Mothers, Riverhead Books, 2016, 299 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available at the UVa and public libraries and from Amazon.