THE PUSH by Ashley Audrain (debut novel)
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Release Date: January 4th, 2022 (damn near a year ago and I heard she has a new book in 2023!)
General genre: Domestic Thriller/Female-Centered/Family Drama/Psychological horror
**Themes (triggers don't read if you don't want **spoilers)mothers & daughters, generational behavioral disorders, motherhood, marriage, paranoia, trauma, child abuse, neglect, suicide, miscarriage, child death
Writing Style: alternating timelines/narratives/POVs
What you need to know: I love how this book begins from a different vantage point in the story and then circles back around to catch the reader up on everything that transpired during the course of a tumultuous twenty-year marriage. There are also two past narratives, Blythe's childhood memories of a difficult relationship with her mother as well as flashbacks to the sixties with Blythe's mother's childhood memories of her abusive mother. So three generations of motherhood.
My reading experience: Reading this book reminded me of everything I love about horror. Sure, we could say this is a domestic thriller but really, this is psychological warfare. This book fucked with me and tapped some pretty serious fears.
Blythe's psyche during pregnancy, early motherhood, and later, parenting a difficult child is painfully vulnerable. Her deepest, darkest fears and anxieties are laid bare for us to pick over and judge. Sometimes I could relate, sometimes Blythe freaked me out and other times, I was scared for her; sad for her; concerned. There were times when she makes these huge leaps in rationality. She assumes so much about her husband's motives. I was constantly fluctuating between frustration and empathy. Is Fox being insensitive about his wife's struggles? Is he ignoring her concerns? Is he gaslighting her? Is this ROSEMARY'S BABY again??
But then other times, especially after reading one of the flashbacks to her childhood, or her mother's childhood, I'd wonder about Blythe. Can we trust her perception of reality?
It was sublime. Utter reading bliss. I read this on a holiday weekend with zero plans and it was the perfect binge-read. My mind was in a constant race to know how this was all going to end.
My final recommendation: If you enjoy a good psychological thriller-horror mash-up, reliving those horrible motherhood anxieties all over again, the entertainment of observing a good marriage that goes off the rails, a twisty-page-turning story with believable characters, and that dark thing horror does when it holds up a mirror to reflect back to you all your worst nightmares as a parent coming true, this is the book for you.
Comps: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage, the black and white film, The Bad Seed (1956), the (1993) film The Good Son with Elijah Wood and Macaulay Culkin, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (I haven't read that, seems too much for me)