Novel of the week
The word “novel” has always implied literary innovation, but it “doesn’t begin to convey the weird originality of this sometimes exasperating, sometimes illuminating work,” said Alexandra Schwartz in The New Yorker. Working in a mode she employed in her breakthrough, How Should a Person Be?, Sheila Heti has filled all 278 pages of Motherhood with one woman’s running personal debate on whether or not to have children. The nameless narrator, like Heti, is a writer, who ages from 36 to 40 while the book gestates. “Not a lot happens,” said Dwight Garner in The New York Times, “yet everything does.” Resisting the idea of becoming a mother, the narrator consults friends, secures her boyfriend’s support in choosing as she likes, interrogates her own mother’s choices, and, as her thoughts circle, does what she most wants to do: She writes. The narrator’s mother is “perhaps the most compelling character in the whole book,” said Lynn Steger Strong in TheMillions.com. Accomplished, aloof, content, she exists in an enviable state of ambivalence: refusing to be a mother even while being one.