The Mothers, by Brit Bennett (Riverhead). In this compelling début novel, set in a black community in Southern California, two seventeen-year-old girls form a bond. Both have lost their mothers—one chose husband over daughter, the other killed herself—and both love the same broken man. In the next two decades, as their lives develop, the pair are watched over by the female congregation of Upper Room Chapel (the Mothers of the title), who contribute choruslike sections of narration. Sharing secrets and bringing food to the bereaved, the Mothers are an all-knowing entity, at once witness and impetus. They anchor Bennett’s theme of female community: the two motherless women, overseen by the Mothers, struggle with the choice of whether to become mothers themselves.
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