I took a road trip recently—a long road trip—and downloaded a few audiobooks to pass the time. One was The Push, a debut novel by Ashley Audrain.
And oh. My. Gosh.
This novel fits squarely in the “mother and child” subset of psychological thrillers. Think We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, or The Room by Emma Donoghue. It’s featured in several summer reading guides, billed as propulsive and un-put-downable. And wow, is it ever.
The Push opens with its narrator, Blythe Connor, sitting in her car outside a house, watching a happy family on Christmas Eve. She describes the teenaged daughter and younger son, the loving husband and wife. She hints at something more sinister, imagining the house going up in flames. She eventually delivers a stack of paper addressed to the man inside—her former husband.
“I’ve come here to give this to you,” she says. “This is my side of the story.”
What follows is a complex, multi-layered tale. We meet Blythe and Fox Connor in the early days of their relationship. Blythe resists becoming a mother because her own mother and grandmother were cruel and abusive. But she gives birth to Violet, and immediately fears that something is wrong. She doesn’t feel the maternal connection everyone talks about. But more than that, she’s convinced something is very wrong with her daughter.
Is she imagining things? That’s the question you ask—over and over, as the novel unfolds. Audrain describes the push and pull of mothering, the relentless frustrations and nagging doubts. The plot twists and turns more than a mountain road, and the ending leaves you clutching the steering wheel. That’s a great road-trip read.