The Mothers: Week 3 P. 147-206

So I guess I spoke too soon last week. Barely two pages into this weeks reading, it is already pretty clear that Nadia and her beau are not meant to be. However, their incompatibility is explained rather well, so I understand where the relationship falters. We start out the section hearing about Aubrey's engagement to Luke. Though this strongly affects Nadia, she is unable to share her full feelings with Shadi, her boyfriend, in part due to her sense of shame regarding the abortion.

Nadia's return home for the wedding is very strange. Not only does the sudden absence of her mother's photographs from her childhood home send Nadia reeling, but she also does not get much of a welcome back from Upper Room,

"In their eyes, she was a prodigal daughter, worse than that even, because she hadn't returned home penniless and humbled. a prodigal daughter, you could pity. but she'd abandoned her home and returned better off, with stories of her fascinating college courses, her impressive internships, her cosmopolitan boyfriend, and her world travels." (162-3)

Nadia's reunion with Mrs. Sheppard is also strained. I think that Nadia sees Mrs. Sheppard as a mother figure, or wants to at least. Mrs. Sheppard represents Nadia's desire to fit in that is at constant war with her anti-social and aloof nature:

"She'd gone away and made something of herself and she wanted Mrs. Sheppard to know. but just as quickly as she'd said hello, the first lady was gone, bustling around the yard, chatting with the other guests. she didn't care about anything nadia had accomplished. any interest she might have held in her had faded years ago, as soon as nadia ceased working for her. so nadia swallowed her stories," (163).

Aubrey and Nadia's relationship is also tense at times, with Aubrey's discovery of Nadia and Luke's past, and her own rising insecurities. One of the most interesting moments in this section was the night on the beach when both Aubrey and Nadia join up with some off duty marines, the older of which, Miller, Aubrey kisses in a restroom. In that moment, Aubrey became a completely different person who is strong and capable on her own;

"She had made an impulsive decision, the type of thing she never did. suddenly the night crackled with promise. she could be a different girl tonight, the type who could talk to strange men and not feel scared. she could only be that girl because she was with nadia turner," (172).

What draws me in even more is the fact that pages later, after Aubrey is married to Luke, it's revealed that Aubrey has continued a relationship with Miller over email. This type of emotional affair and escape from her less than perfect marriage with Luke, who won't even go with her to the doctor when she tries to figure out why she isn't getting pregnant, is described alongside the reveal of Luke and Nadia's affair, which disappointed me mostly because I'm not too big a fan of Luke. I think that both girls are much stronger than he is, and I think that's the point. Aubrey and Nadia's independent strength and their relationship with each other are stronger than any of their outside relationships. On that front, I am hoping that Nadia and Luke cut it out, that Nadia and Aubrey's relationship survives the affair, and that Aubrey realizes that she has strength on her own.

On page 188, Nadia dreams about her aborted child, and the life he may have lived. It's hard to tell if she regrets the decision per say. I think she definitely has mixed feelings. She would have loved her child, but at the same time I think she knows that she would not have been able to get the education she did or have the opportunities she has if she had kept the child. I think that situation brings her closer to understanding her mother a bit more. I am recording the excerpt of her dream here because I loved it so much.

"on the flight back to detroit, nadia dreamed about baby. baby, no longer a baby, now a toddler, reaching and grabbing. pulling at her earrings until she unhooks his chubby fingers. baby hungry always for her face. baby growing into a child, learning words, rhyming -at words from a car seat on the way to school, writing his name in green crayon in the front of all his picture books. baby running with friends at the park, pushing girls he likes on the swing. baby digging for indian clay in the sandbox and coming home smelling like pressed grass. baby flying planes in the backyard with grandpa. baby searching for hidden photos of grandma. baby learning how to fight. baby learning how to kiss. baby, now a man, stepping on an airplane and slinging his bag into the overhead bin. he helps an older woman with hers. when he lands, wherever he's headed, he gets his shoes shined and stares into the black mirror, sees his face, sees his father's, sees hers," (188).

Discussion Questions

  1. Towards the end of this section we are quickly introduced to Nadia's new (and rather unimportant plot wise) white boyfriend. How do the few interactions we see between them carry on Bennett's approach to interracial relationships.
  2. In this section, Nadia finds her mother's hymnal. What do you think the importance of this discovery is? What do you think the end of the book holds for Nadia?
  3. For someone who is quite obsessed with the child he could have had with Nadia, Luke is very uninterested in Aubrey's attempts to get pregnant. What do you think his reason for being so aloof about it is? Do you think there is a link between Nadia's abortion and Aubrey's struggle to get pregnant?
Created By
Jessi Young


Created with images by Sharon Hahn Darlin - "Elmhurst Presbyterian Church, East Oakland, California"

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