Book review – Motherest

Disclaimer! Minor spoilers. On my bedside table: Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian

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Why I picked it up: The summary on the back cover mentioned the words “college”, “90s” and “Nirvana”.

What it is about: Agnes is eighteen and in college. Her mother is gone. Already grieving the recent suicide of her older brother Simon, now Agnes has to navigate through her first year of college dealing with another missing piece in her fractured family. Agnes settles down, and her days are spent going to class, working at the cafeteria, and writing – but never mailing – letters to her absent mother. She makes friends, like her roommate Surprise, who turns from an inexperienced virgin to resembling a middle-aged woman within one semester, and Joan, a quirky dreadhead who grew up on a farm and makes her own bread and lemonade. Agnes also starts dating a guy nicknamed Tea Rose, in a relationship that only exists when they are alone, together, but not in the real world.

Things unfold way too fast as Agnes finds out she’s pregnant. With what seems like not too much reasoning she decides to keep the baby, possibly because she can’t face getting rid of it having been abandoned by her own mother herself. After college is over, Agnes moves back home to live with her dad. Bearing the loss of a son and wife, Agnes’ dad seems to live in a constant state of hold, for which she feels sorry, sad and pitiful. The two of them share a relationship dotted with inside jokes and affectionate traditions, but they also make sure that inconvenient questions are not asked and uncomfortable topics avoided.

Agnes endures her pregnancy with no idea what to expect. Struggling to accept the evidence, she skips doctor’s appointments, refuses to buy baby supplies, and is confused and terrified by the changes in her own body. Her only source of comfort is Alicia, another teen girl who is also pregnant. The two of them form a temporary bond on opposite sides of the spectrum: Alicia thrilled to give birth to a baby girl, Agnes foreseeing the worst.

Would I recommend it: Yep. This was actually a really good book, although it’s hard to explain why. It’s not eye-opening or mind-boggling, yet I devoured it in three days. It's an easy read, but it will leave you with a bittersweet feeling and probably a knot in your stomach.

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