Title: The Push
Author: Ashley Audrain
Published: 5th January 2021
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 4 stars
What happens when your experience of motherhood is nothing at all what you hoped for, but everything you always feared?
‘The women in this family, we’re different . . .’
Blythe Connor doesn’t want history to repeat itself.
Violet is her first child and she will give her daughter all the love she deserves. All the love that her own mother withheld.
But firstborns are never easy. And Violet is demanding and fretful. She never smiles. Soon Blythe believes she can do no right – that something’s very wrong. Either with her daughter, or herself.
Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining it. But Violet’s different with him. And he can’t understand what Blythe suffered as a child. No one can.
Blythe wants to be a good mother. But what if that’s not enough for Violet? Or her marriage? What if she can’t see the darkness coming?
Mother and daughter. Angel or monster?
We don’t get to choose our inheritance – or who we are . . .
“It must have been pushed. It wouldn’t have rolled over that groove.”
Enslaving, divisive and arresting, The Push is the debut psychological thriller from Canadian writer Ashley Audrain. A story that aims to critically interrogate motherhood and parenting experiences, The Push is a book that will tests your limits. Ashley Audrain’s dramatic debut is a compelling read, that produces question after question until the bitter end of this compelling tale.
A story of motherhood, womanhood, parenting, family and relationships, The Push looks closely at the pressure of raising a child. When Blythe gives birth to Violet and she holds her for the first time, something doesn’t feel right to this new mother. Much more than a case of baby blues and first-time motherhood anxiety, Blythe’s strange feelings towards her daughter continue to escalate. But Blythe comes from a tragic history of difficult motherhood relations. Blythe’s own mother and grandmother were not model mother figures. Despite the doubts Blythe has over her own child and parenting capabilities, Blythe’s husband Fox reassures her that everything is completely fine. However, Blythe cannot shake those nagging thoughts from her mind that something is wrong with her, or is it her daughter’s fault? Who is to blame, mother or daughter?
The Push is a challenging and conflicting novel. As a mother, I found the experiences highlighted in The Push to be confronting, emotional and confusing. An ambiguous novel from start to finish, The Push is an ambitious debut, but the assured voice of Ashley Audrain carries this novel to great heights.
Narrated by the central mother figure of this tale, we glean a great deal from this woman’s mixed up, unsure and sensitive mind. From the start I didn’t completely buy into Blythe’s version of events and emotional responses to the situations she found herself in. Blythe was cast as an unreliable narrator and the tables often turned from mother to daughter in this conflicting tale. We learn from the separate sequences interspersed through the main narrative that Blythe comes from troubled stock. With her mother and grandmother having negative experiences of motherhood, this has paved the way for some intergenerational trauma. As a reader we really begin to doubt Blythe’s visions and testimony, once we learn of her troubled background. Audrain has really set her lead up for a dramatic fall.
Audrain’s character set are clearly realised on the pages of her first novel. Blythe is presented with a great deal of clarity, which I appreciated. Blythe’s husband Fox is cast as both a possible supportive husband, to a father who has been manipulated by his daughter, to a man who abandons his wife in her time of need. Whichever way you view Fox, Audrain has provided enough detail on this key protagonist so that we are drawn to his story, as well as Blythe’s. The third and most important party in The Push is core protagonist Violet, the daughter figure of this tale. Violet is a shadowy and underhanded character. I was never entirely sure of Violet. There are more questions than answers surrounding Violet, especially in psychology department. We are left in the land of limbo as to whether or not Violet is the cause of the heartbreaking situations in the book, or these experiences are the product of Blythe’s hallucinations. Either way, to have a child commit the things Violet supposedly does during the course of this novel is disturbing and shocking. It is up to the reader to decide, even when the parting line is delivered by Ashley Audrain.
With themes of abuse, trauma, loss, grief, high expectations, marriage breakdown, relationships, motherhood, parenting, mental illness, self-confidence and blame following The Push, this is a thought provoking read from a confident new writer.
The Push by Ashley Audrain was published on 5th January 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Push, Ashley Audrain, visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.