Book Review: The Push, by Ashley Audrain

The first night in the hospital I didn’t sleep. I stared at her quietly behind the perforated curtain that surrounded the bed. Her toes were a row of tiny snow peas. I would open her blanket and trace my finger along her skin and watch her twitch. She was alive. She came from me… I was physically numb from the painkillers but inside I felt lit on fire by oxytocin. Some mothers might have called it love, but it felt more to me like astonishment. Like wonder. I didn’t think about what to do next, about what we would do when we got home. I didn’t think about raising her and caring for her and who she would become. I wanted to be alone with her. In that surreal space of time, I wanted to feel every pulse.

A part of me knew we would never exist like that again.

The Push

Let me set the scene. It was a Monday night: I’d had quite an enjoyable day and in the evening, after my yoga practice and a delicious chicken casserole, I decided to have an early night. But before that, I thought, I’ll start The Push. Just a chapter or two…

Three hours later, my early night a thing of the past, I came up for air.

The book, which I raced through to find out the ending, is written in the form of a manuscript from Blythe to her ex-husband (Fox) regarding their marriage and their daughter Violet. “This is my side of the story,” Blythe writes.

The novel opens with Blythe sat in her car watching Fox through the window of the house he now lives in with his wife and their son, and Violet. Blythe describes seeing Violet notice her, return the stare, and then slowly reaching down to kiss her younger half-brother. It immediately sets the tension for the rest of the novel, as the story of what happened to break that family apart slowly unfurls.

Your house glows at night like everything inside is on fire.

The Push

Throughout the book you are questioning Blythe’s version of events. She describes how she witnessed or sensed Violet’s role in the different things that happen, her responsibility, and Fox telling her otherwise. Is Blythe imagining things? Is the poor connection between mother and daughter her fault, or is Violet actually orchestrating these events?

She didn’t want me near her. Most days she was irritable and troublesome when we were alone and nothing could soothe her… When we were in public, at the grocery store or the park, other mothers would sometimes ask in a sympathetic voice if there was anything they could do to help. I was humiliated – they pitied me either for giving birth to a child like Violet or for being the kind of mother who looked too weak to survive her.

The Push

This is a book about mother-daughter relationships: not only Blythe and Violet’s, but also that of Blythe and her mother Cecilia, and also Cecilia and her mother Etta. Blythe is so determined to have a different relationship with Violet to the one she had with Cecelia and show her all the love they both deserve. But yet, each generation has their stories of strain, abandonment and abuse. The book asks: is this darkness inherited?

‘She’s four, Blythe. She can’t even tie her shoes.’

‘Look, I love her, I’m just saying -’

‘Do you?’

The Push

Throughout the book, Audrain keeps the sense of foreboding and tension. It’s shocking in places to see Blythe’s unravelling sanity, the lengths she will go to, and how much she questions her young daughter’s actions.

I love twisty thrillers with unreliable narrators, where you don’t know who to believe or what is really happening. I enjoy trying to decide whether a character is imagining something or if they are the ones behind it. I find them addictive to read, whether I end up being right or wrong about the character’s motives (in this case I was wrong!) This book will keep you wondering… right to the

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Published by luggageandscribble

Oh hey, just a girl who loves reading.

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