It’s easy to think of intimate, single-POV novels as somewhat simple narrative exercises, but Ashley Audrain’s gripping debut is proof that this is an illusion. In the hands of the right storyteller, even the most compact novels can be works of great complexity.
The Push unfolds through the mind and pen of Blythe, an aspiring writer whose decision to become a mother is weighted against her own difficult childhood. Blythe is determined to be the mother she never had, but her first child, Violet, doesn’t make that easy. Blythe’s husband gets along with their daughter fine, but Blythe can’t help but think that something is off, particularly when their second child gives her the kind of parenting relationship she always wanted. Even then, the feeling that something is not quite right about Violet persists, until it goes so far that Blythe’s entire world is altered in a single shattering moment.
The Push is a dazzling exercise in both economy of language and vividness of expression. Audrain’s grasp of Blythe’s inner life—her fears, her hopes, the details that linger in her mind— is so precise and mature that we get lost in this woman’s often troubling world. That feeling propels the novel forward at a blistering pace, but Audrain doesn’t stop there. This is just one woman’s side of the story—a woman who’s a writer, at that—so even as we feel we know Blythe, we can’t help but wonder how much of what she’s telling us is fiction. That this suspicion can coexist with the intimacy of Blythe’s narration is proof of Audrain’s skill as a storyteller and makes the book that much more spellbinding.
The Push announces Audrain as a sophisticated, compelling writer, perfect for fans of thrillers and intimate family dramas alike.