We asked several teachers and authors who attended Festival America book festival in Vincennes in September to give us their favourite picks amongst the authors and books they encountered.
Isabelle Brefort, who teaches at Lycée Jean-Baptiste Corot, Savigny-sur-Orge (91), recommends:
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Can a secret ruin lives? Can our choices shape our lives but also haunt us?
Grief and loss, love and female friendship, family and community, judgement and hypocrisy, teen pregnancy, racial and cultural identity, all these life challenges are part of Brit Bennett’s debut novel, a story about young love and a secret that will follow the characters.
“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”
After the death of her mother, Nadia, a 17 year old African-American teenager, goes wild with pain. She meets Luke, the local pastor’s son, and everything seems to be right again -until she becomes pregnant. She decides to have an abortion and move on with her life. Nadia is the only person in her family to go to college and leaves her community to go to the University of Michigan while hiding her secret from everyone, including her best friend Aubrey who has terrible secrets of her own. Years later she and Luke will meet again and their secret will shake both their lives and those of the community.
The Mothers, the elderly female members of the church (Upper Room) in their Southern California town, are one of the reflections of motherhood in the book and serve as a Greek chorus watching over the action and commenting on the story and the young characters, complex, flawed and authentic, in a judgmental voice. You will find no cheap moralising in this novel in which Brit Bennett focuses on the ramifications of choices and what it means to be a woman, a friend and the member of a community.
About the author: Brit Bennett is a young American author. Born and raised in Southern California, she graduated from Stanford University. The Mothers is her first novel and is being adapted for the screen by Warner Brothers.
Does she think that collective judgement strikes women much more than men?
“Yes. Women are ‘regulated’ in society and have to follow standards. You have to become your own free person," she states with determination.
An excerpt and teacher’s guide are available on the publisher’s site.
Penguin Random House
> “The Barrowfields”, a Haunting Family Tale from North Carolina
> “The Verdun Affair”, Love and Loss in WWI
> Festival America
> The 2018 Man Booker Prize Shortlist