Give me a good psychological thriller any day of the week and I am a happy girl. The Push by Ashley Audrain scratched that itch for me. With a name like The Push I wasn't sure what to expect, but with motherhood themes, it made my existential mind go wild. It's really crazy when you think about how a simple word like "push" can have so many meanings to a mother. What do you hear over and over during labor? "Are you ready to push yet? Time to push?" What do children do to you physically and mentally? Push you to your breaking point. What can the birth of a child do to a marriage? It can push you apart....and with The Push by Ashley Audrain, it also takes on another, more sinister and heartbreaking meaning. So much of motherhood involves "pushing," which is pretty wild when you get to thinking about it. I digress. The Push is a psychological thriller like nothing I have read before. This one has plenty of triggers though, so I do advise you to check those out before reading and can be found at the end of my review.
Blythe Connor is determined to be a better mother to her child, than she had growing up. Coming from a neglectful mother, she doesn't have much to base a relationship off of, other than she wants to do better. In the thick haze of early parenthood, Blythe starts to feel like something is wrong with her new baby. She buries this feelings down deep and ends up welcoming another child into her world. Everything she lacked with her first born, she finds in her second born, that is, until the unthinkable happens. The Push will have you questioning reality until the very last page. With an unreliable narrator like Blythe, her gaslighting husband, and her potentially troubled child, you will want to know what happens next.
Were parts of this book written from thoughts directly from my head? I swear I felt that way at times as I read Blythe's inner monologue. What mother hasn't felt in over their head with a newborn, feeling like each monotonous day blends into the next and your only purpose in life is to keep this thing they call a baby alive? I know I have....because of that, I had a ton of compassion for Blythe. Nothing can prepare you for what happens when you are responsible for bringing a life into the world. As a mother of two and a child of a neglectful mother myself, I felt many of the same feelings Blythe felt with her first and second child. From the first page, I was on her side. Many of Blythe's worries are totally normal, but then the things she experienced as Violet grew were far from normal.
The gaslighting in this book was INFURIRATING. I couldn't stop shaking my head at the way Blythe's husband, soon ex-husband, treated her and how he fanned the flames in making her feel like she was the crazy one. It was clear that Blythe was struggling as a new mother, yet her husband turned a blind eye and expected her to simply get over it and get used to this major life event. Few things stress a marriage than the birth of a baby and it is one of those things that can push you apart (there I go, I said "push" again!) if you don't actively work on your marriage.
I will say, the ending of this one fell a bit flat for me, in the sense that I was completely blown away or shocked. The ending was basically what I expected. I think I went into it with too high of expectations because everyone and their mother (get it? pun intended ;) has read this book and raved about it. The entire premise surrounds one horrible event and whether or not "she did it." I couldn't stop reading because I had to find out the truth. Once I got to the revelation, I was a little let down, but I also read a lot of thrillers, with psych thrillers being a favorite genre, so do not let my high standards sway you from picking this one up.
4 - 4.5 stars
“A mother’s heart breaks a million ways in her lifetime.”
“These are thoughts I never let leave my lips. These are thoughts most mothers don't have.”
“You used to care about me as a person—my happiness, the things that made me thrive. Now I was a service provider. You didn’t see me as a woman. I was just the mother of your child.”
Content warnings: death of child, miscarriage, gaslighting/manipulation by spouse
This book might be triggering if you have experienced postpartum depression and/or anxiety, are currently pregnant, have stressed relationship with your mother, have children or are a caretaker of children.