By Julie Kish
By Ashley Audrain
Published January 2021
The Push is a page-turning psychological drama that immerses the reader in the dark world of motherhood gone terribly wrong. Written by Torontonian Ashley Audrain, The Push was chosen for Good Morning America’s Book Club for January 2021, which guarantees it will be a bestseller.
Blythe isn’t sure she wants to have a child – her own mother was abusive and abandoned the family when Blythe was 11 years old – but her husband, Fox, wants to be a father and Blythe gives in to him. There are problems from the beginning. Blythe is unable to comfort Violet, a difficult, cranky baby, and she is convinced the baby hates her. Later she will hear those words directly from her daughter.
As Violet grows into a manipulative, cruel little girl, the mother-child relationship worsens. Blythe is sure there is something wrong with Violet, but her husband disagrees and thinks it’s in her imagination. It tortures Blythe to watch the close bond between her husband and Violet. Only when their son Sam is born is Blythe able to experience the joy of motherhood and the blissful connection she always wanted with her child.
When the reader thinks life is turning around for the tortured mother, a horrific tragedy pushes Blythe to the brink of insanity.
The Push is a carefully crafted novel, written in the second person as Blythe documents her “side of the story” and gives the manuscript to her husband, pleading with him to see their daughter’s true nature. But Blythe is an unreliable narrator and the reader isn’t sure if there is something wrong with the child, the mother or both.
It’s written in a succinct style with an absence of flowery descriptions. At 300 pages and 85 short chapters, it’s possible to consume this mesmerizing story in one gut-wrenching sitting. The novel moves quickly and is difficult to put down. Like most good stories, it leaves an emotional mark on the reader.
The flashback chapters exploring Blythe’s disturbing childhood and her own mother’s horrific upbringing leave the reader with vivid images of damaged families and intergenerational trauma. It’s painful to watch the disintegration of Blythe’s marriage and the author’s depiction of a mother’s grief is incredibly moving.
The author, Ashley Audrain, wrote The Push while on maternity leave from her position as a publicist at Penguin Canada. The literary industry has given this novel enthusiastic approval and Audrain has received a multimillion-dollar book, movie and TV deal – almost unheard of for a debut Canadian novelist.
I highly recommend this novel, particularly to mothers or to any brave souls contemplating parenthood. It might make you think twice about your decision.