The Mothers: A Novel

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9781451697254: The Mothers: A Novel

A taut, emotionally gripping novel about one couple’s passionate desire for a child and their heartrending journey through adoption—from a critically acclaimed writer whose “voice is at turns wise and barbed with sharp humor” (Vanity Fair).

Poignant, raw, and insightful, Jennifer Gilmore’s third novel is an unforgettable story of love, family, and motherhood. With a “voice [that is] at turns wise and barbed with sharp humor” (Vanity Fair), Gilmore lays bare the story of one couple’s ardent desire for a child and their emotional journey through adoption.

Jesse and Ramon are a loving couple, but after years spent unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant, they turn to adoption, relieved to think that once they navigate the bureaucratic path to parent-hood they will have a happy ending. But nothing has prepared them for the labyrinthine process—for the many training sessions and approvals; for the constant advice from friends, strangers, and “experts”; for the birthmothers who contact them but don’t ultimately choose them; or even, most shockingly, for the women who call claiming they’ve chosen Jesse and Ramon but who turn out never to have been pregnant in the first place.

Jennifer Gilmore’s eloquence about the human heart—its frailties and complexities—and her razor-sharp observations about race, class, culture, and changing family dynamics are spectacularly combined in this powerful novel. Suffused with passion and fury, The Mothers is a taut, gripping, and satisfying book that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.

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Review:

Guest Review of “The Mothers”

By Meg Wolitzer

Novels run on various kinds of fuel. Jennifer Gilmore’s remarkable novel The Mothers runs on a combination of rage and desire, two dominant emotions felt by her narrator, Jesse, who along with her husband Ramon is on a long, drawn-out quest to have a child. Unable to conceive, Jesse becomes comfortable with the decision to adopt a baby domestically, through what is known as “open adoption,” in which all parties involved are aware of one another’s identities. The phrase “open adoption” sounds on the surface like an idyllic solution to the problems of closed files and unknown or nebulous family histories; and surely it can work well. But this novel presents no idyll. Jesse and Ramon’s adoption path is thorny and infuriating, marred by bureaucracy, pathology, vagueness and scam after scam.

The novel charts the rise and fall of various possible babies, various possible futures. It’s maddening and nerve-wracking to closely experience what this couple goes through, knowing that while they feel such desperate and chaotic emotions, they also need to remain outwardly calm and open and warm, and accept all comers who contact them.

The Mothers is harrowing and hypnotic, a page-turner that makes the reader long to know what ultimately happens to this couple at the end. But the book also has some very interesting things to say about the desire to be a mother, and the state of motherhood itself. What, after all, is a mother? A woman who gives birth? A woman who raises a child born to someone else? A woman whose child is grown? A woman who desires a child so much and feels consumed by maternal feelings? Reading The Mothers will work the reader up with rage and sympathy toward this couple as they make their way through an unpredictable world that offers no assurances of anything. Of course, as Jennifer Gilmore’s powerful novel lets us see, uncertainty is a big part of the quest toward motherhood by any means; and it’s also, of course, a big part of the state of motherhood itself.

Meg Wolitzer’s new novel is The Interestings (Riverhead).

About the Author:

Jennifer Gilmore is the author Golden Country, a 2006 New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Jewish Book Award, and Something Red, a New York Times Notable Book of 2010. Her work has appeared in Allure, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Vogue, and The Washington Post. She lives in Brooklyn.

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