In the opening pages of The Mothers, we are introduced to the hovering presence of the older women in the church, called “the mothers,” members of what is designated the Upper Room. The women oversee the parishioners…and they gossip. Sometimes they get things wrong, but they never stop.
Set in Oceanside, CA, in a black community, the church is definitely at the center of the action, but for Nadia Turner, a seventeen-year-old girl headed for bigger things, already accepted into her college in Michigan, there are moments of rebellion. And love. With the pastor’s son, Luke Sheppard, whose mother already gives Nadia the stank-eye. But she also doesn’t say much, as poor Nadia’s mother committed suicide six months before…and her father is someone who does good deeds for the church.
Then something happens that will sever the bond between Nadia and Luke, and shortly thereafter, she meets and connects with another motherless girl, Aubrey Evans, who lives with her sister Mo and her gay partner Kasey. Aubrey could be portrayed as the exact opposite of Nadia, on the surface, since Mrs. Sheppard has taken her under her wing. And makes her approval clear.
We follow each of the characters for a few years, as Nadia goes off to college, then law school, with only the occasional visits home. In one such visit, she and Luke connect again, and share some secrets from that time in their past.
What will happen to the two of them? Will Luke’s new path in life challenge what they once had, and what they might find again? Could Aubrey become the one who severs the bond forever?
What great characters! I loved seeing where they went and what they did. The multiple narrators took us back and forth in time, showing us events that we could not have imagined. When someone overheard the pastor arguing with Nadia’s father, that secret would become fodder for the mothers, the overseers, those who would forever keep track of the secrets, and what would become of the young women in their “charge.” In the end, I loved this passage, in the voice of those mothers, sharing thoughts about Nadia and her one last return home:
“We see the span of her life unspooling in colorful threads and we chase it, wrapping it around our hands as more tumbles out. She’s her mother’s age now. Double her age. Our age. You’re our mother. We’re climbing inside of you.”
Beautifully written, the author has become another favorite. Five stars.