The Push: A Novel

Image of The Push: A Novel
Release Date: 
January 5, 2021
Pamela Dorman Books

In this jaw-dropping psychological thriller we witness the laceration of motherhood.

The story begins and ends in a "book-ended" way, with the opening scene mirroring the last. The young mother, Blythe, an ambitious wannabe author married to Fox, a successful architect, soon realizes that her response to raising their baby daughter, Violet, is extreme. In sharp contrast, Fox is a doting father, patient with his wife's reluctant, sometimes bitter, emotions toward young Violet. He's intent on trying to fill in, as best as he can, for both parents' love for their child. But is Fox reinforcing the  dysfunctional family dynamics between Blythe and Violet? Is he truly oblivious to the little girl's behavior or gaslighting his wife?

The Push is structured in the voice of Blythe, offering an unexpected, very brave, and brutally honest view of motherhood that is deeply disturbing. The beauty, pain, and disappointments stemming from the demands of motherhood are a shock as well as a surprise for most new mothers. The experiences of childbirth, nursing, rejection by the baby are often only whispered in real life by young mothers. But in The Push, the main character's struggle with motherhood has, most likely, never been revealed with such brutal, raw honesty anywhere else.

The Push pushes many boundaries: of what is an acceptable view of motherhood, romanticized at times as an oxytocin bliss, but always as instinctual and primal. In this thriller, it is the psychological loss of one's own identity separate from the all-dependent baby that consumes Blythe. What if she can't bond with her own baby? What kind of raw, frightening, self-destructive days lie ahead with a baby she wants to forget?  Blythe's unflinching awareness that she is not a good mother—that she doesn't know how to be a good mother—is unforgettable.  

"I was far beyond the place where shame could exist."

The lack of affection and love between mother and child is echoed over three generations: Blythe and Violet, Violet and her mother Cecilia, and Cecilia and her mother (Blythe's grandmother). All are on the edge of madness. The three backstories, meticulously and skillfully interwoven, are described in excruciating, sometimes painful detail: These three generations of failed mothers have unhealed wounds trapping them on psychologically toxic flypaper: The more these women struggle, the more tightly they are bound. Can Blythe break the vicious cycle?

Blythe's belief in the allure and charm of motherhood becomes increasingly pulverized, almost paranoiac. There is no nursing of her bruises and moving on. The Push is a deeply astute analysis of the myths behind motherhood, of the aftermath of the trauma inflicted because of those beliefs, and the fragility of truth for the most vulnerable and unprotected. 

"A mother's heart breaks a million ways in her lifetime." Life delivers unwanted realities with sometimes tragic consequences with no atlas or map to guide us. The Push is such a story.