Review Time: The Push

“These are thoughts I never let leave my lips. These are thoughts most mothers don’t have.”

Blythe Connor has it all. An idyllic life with a husband she adores — and who adores her — and a baby on the way. There’s one problem though: The women in Blythe’s family have historically had a hard time adjusting to the demands of motherhood. While the women in her family, namely her mother and grandmother, likely started out with the best of intentions (did they??), their efforts morphed into something a little more aligned with abuse than love. But Blythe knows that she’s going to be different. She’s seen how love can manifest into something more sinister, and she wont’ let that happen to her family.

Until she meets her daughter, Violet.

From the outset, the young mother struggles to bond with her infant daughter. There is something just not quite right about Violet. She doesn’t behave like the other babies, and as she ages, she doesn’t behave like the other toddlers and kindergartners. Blythe’s husband Fox sees nothing wrong with his precious Violet, but that’s because Violet puts on an elaborate act for daddy. Isn’t it?

Then one day on the playground, a little boy tragically falls from the top of the jungle gym to his death. Violet had been up there near the little boy, but that doesn’t have to mean anything, does it? It all happened so fast, there’s no way Blythe can be sure of what she saw.

Eventually, Blythe and Fox have another baby, a son, who is the light of Blythe’s world; everything she had hoped that Violet would be. Violet is good with her baby brother for a long while. Until she’s not. And so the story goes. Things seem to happen when Violet is around — bad things — but there’s always another very plausible explanation for the events.

Is it all in Blythe’s head? Or is her first-born a budding psychopath? And who can even be the judge?

Ashley Audrain’s The Push is a novel that dives into a variety of hard-to-talk-about topics, from patterns and cycles of abuse to what makes a good mother to the responsibilities we have for those around us. It’s a novel that will make you think about yourself, your past, your future, your wants, your desires. Can you really ever have it all? Or will something always be holding you back? I very much enjoyed The Push as a novel. As a psychological thriller, though, it was a bit lacking. In a thriller, I expect to be on the edge of my metaphorical seat, inundated with action — or at least impending action. The Push, by way of organization and structure, is more thought than action; Blythe’s thoughts versus Violet’s actions. The end is a doozy, though, so there’s that to look forward to. And there’s the terrifying prospect of having a kid like Violet. So thanks for the nightmares.

My Favorite Scene: I’ll start with the caveat that this scene was not my ‘favorite’ per se because it’s heartbreaking and that feels just wrong. But it is the most pivotal scene in the book, and the one that makes you step back and reevaluate everything you’ve learned about the Connor family. Again, pivotal, so the details are light here, but as heartbreakingly tragic events unfold on the corner by the park, Blythe is forced to question her relationship with everyone in her life, from her daughter to her husband to the guy who runs the coffee shop she just left. But no matter what, nothing will make it all better. Nothing will take away the pain. And nothing will convince her that Violet had nothing to do with it.

Grade: ★★★☆☆

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