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Books that Explore All the Layers of Motherhood

Reluctant mothers, surprising mothers, expectant mothers. . . women everywhere each have their own definition of what it means to be a mother. Explore all the different layers of motherhood in this curated collection of books.

 

Hush by Kate Maxwell

After five exhilarating years in New York, Stevie has a successful career and a glamorous social life. But what she most wants is a baby, an aspiration that feels impossible given that she is single, thirty-eight and living in a tiny apartment in Manhattan, far away from most of her family in England.

Determined to become a mother, Stevie returns to London and has a baby on her own. When she gives birth to Ash, she finds motherhood painfully at odds with her former life and her expectations. She begins to wonder if having a child was a mistake – and what she might be willing to do to escape. As she struggles with what her future might hold, revelations from the past change everything she believed about family and love.

 

Birth Notes by Jessica Cornwell

Following the birth of her first children, twin boys, Jessica Cornwell collapsed in a fever. Rushed back to hospital, she was initially dismissed, before a life-threatening infection was diagnosed. Alone, recovering, watching her body bruise and break, a curious thing happened: she stopped feeling.

Birth Notes is the story – luminous, breathtaking and courageous – of forging a self from fragments. With eloquent rage and searing honesty, it speaks for the unvoiced and shines a light on maternal mental health. It is the love story of a mother for her children and a woman for herself.

 

 

 

What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You by Sharma Taylor

At eighteen years old, Dinah gave away her baby son to the rich couple she worked for before they left Jamaica. They never returned. She never forgot him. Eighteen years later, a young man comes from the US to Kingston. From the moment she sees him, Dinah never doubts – this is her son. What happens next will make everyone question what they know and where they belong.

A powerful story of belonging, identity and inheritance, What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You brings together a blazing chorus of voices to evoke Jamaica’s ghetto, dance halls, criminal underworld and corrupt politics, at the beating heart of which is a mother’s unshakeable love for her son.

 

 

Easy Beauty by Chloé Cooper Jones

Born with a rare congenital condition called sacral agenesis, Chloé Cooper Jones must contend not only with her own physical pain, but the emotional discomfort of others. It is only when she unexpectedly becomes a mother that she confronts the demand to live life fully, propelling her on a journey across the globe, reclaiming the spaces she’d been denied, and denied herself.

From Roman sculptures to a Beyoncé concert, from a tennis tournament to the Cambodian Killing Fields, Jones interrogates the myths of beauty with spiky intelligence, aesthetic philosophy, love and humor, inviting us to find a new way of seeing.

 

The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman, translated by Leslie Camhi

Beautiful and charismatic, Catherine, aka ‘Maman’, smokes too much, drives too fast, laughs too hard and loves too extravagantly. During a joyful and chaotic childhood in Paris, her daughter Violaine wouldn’t have it any other way. But when Maman is hospitalised after a third divorce and breakdown, everything changes.

With spectacular ferocity of language, a streak of dark humor and stunning emotional bravery, The Book of Mother is an exquisitely wrought story of a mother’s dizzying heights and devastating lows, and a daughter who must hold her memory close in order to let go.

 

 

Loved and Missed by Susie Boyt

When your beloved daughter is lost in the fog of addiction and you make off with her baby in order to save the day, can willpower and a daring creative zeal carry you through ?
Examining the limits, disappointments and excesses of love in all its forms, this marvellously absorbing novel, full of insight and compassion, delights as much as it disturbs.

Susie Boyt writes with a mordant wit and vivid style which are at their best in Loved and Missed.

 

 

Chouette by Claire Oshetsky

When Chouette is born, Tiny’s husband and family are devastated by her condition and strange appearance. Doctors tell them to expect the worst. Chouette won’t learn to walk; she never speaks; she lashes out when frightened and causes chaos in public.

Tiny’s husband wants to make her better but Tiny thinks their child is perfect the way she is. In her fierce self-possession, her untameable will, she teaches Tiny to break free of expectations – no matter what it takes.