The Mothers: A Novel
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The Mothers: A Novel

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by Jennifer Gilmore
     
 

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Poignant, raw, and insightful, Jennifer Gilmore’s third novel is an unforgettable story of love, family, and motherhood. With a “voice [that is] at turns wise and barbed with sharp humor” (Vanity Fair), Gilmore lays bare the story of one couple’s ardent desire for a child and their emotional journey through adoption.

Jesse…  See more details below

Overview

Poignant, raw, and insightful, Jennifer Gilmore’s third novel is an unforgettable story of love, family, and motherhood. With a “voice [that is] at turns wise and barbed with sharp humor” (Vanity Fair), Gilmore lays bare the story of one couple’s ardent desire for a child and their emotional journey through adoption.

Jesse and Ramon are a loving couple, but after years spent unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant, they turn to adoption, relieved to think that once they navigate the bureaucratic path to parent-hood they will have a happy ending. But nothing has prepared them for the labyrinthine process—for the many training sessions and approvals; for the constant advice from friends, strangers, and “experts”; for the birthmothers who contact them but don’t ultimately choose them; or even, most shockingly, for the women who call claiming they’ve chosen Jesse and Ramon but who turn out never to have been pregnant in the first place.

Jennifer Gilmore’s eloquence about the human heart—its frailties and complexities—and her razor-sharp observations about race, class, culture, and changing family dynamics are spectacularly combined in this powerful novel. Suffused with passion and fury, The Mothers is a taut, gripping, and satisfying book that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
New Yorkers Jess and Ramon want to be parents in the worst way, but the deck is stacked against them. She is almost 39, he's in his 40s. They are of different religious backgrounds. Most challenging of all, she is a cancer survivor. After years of failed in vitro, they race against time by going the open-adoption route. As enormous stressors tug at them—calls from potential birth mothers (some are scam artists, others end up choosing different couples), fractious family members, the passage of time—the pressure brings out the worst in both spouses, especially Jess, who can be so high-maintenance she makes the reader want to file for divorce from her. VERDICT Gilmore (Something Red) has written a humane, realistic novel of the penetrating sorrow of people deprived by biology of their overwhelming need to be parents and of the harrowing, obstacle-riddled path to adoption.—Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor District Lib., MI
The Washington Post - Ann Bauer
For all [the] pain…The Mothers is surprisingly easy to read, clipping from one obstacle to another with humor and insight. Jesse grows wiser as she draws ever closer to her dreaded 40th birthday. It's impossible not to root for her as she picks herself up over and over, answering the phone in the hope that her new or future baby is on the other end.
The New York Times Book Review - Molly Ringwald
The Mothers is a spirited and admirably frank novel. Gilmore is at her best when describing the darker details of the ordeal, imbuing the moments of distress with authenticity and a deft, ironic humor. By the end of the book it is impossible not to find yourself rooting for Jesse and Ramon.
Publishers Weekly
Gilmore’s third novel (after Something Red) is the heartfelt cry of a woman who desperately wants a baby. Jesse Wein-traub, a history professor in Manhattan, is postcancer and almost 40. After years of trying to get pregnant, she and husband Ramon Aragon pursue open adoption. The chronicle of their 10-year marriage, forged when Jewish Jesse met Spanish-Italian Ramon in Italy, is a paradoxical tale of marital love surmounting cultural and religious differences and then veering into obsessive desperation. The torturous bureaucracy of adoption results in heartbreak, as prospective birthmothers lead Jesse and Ramon through a litany of scams. Gilmore doesn’t spare her heroine; Jesse is angry, bitter, resentful, abrasive, panicked, and acerbically funny. She hates Ramon’s possessive Italian mother, resents her own mother for the career that included extensive travel and little time for mothering, is jealous of friends who conceive easily, and is stunned when her estranged sister rejoins the family, unwed but pregnant. Throughout, Jesse muses on the essence of motherhood—and on how the biological clock can be challenged by circumstances. Though often painful to read, this candid account at once embraces “the possibility for anything” and seems to set up a happy resolution for Jesse and Ramon. Agent: Jenn Joel, ICM. (Apr. 9)
author of The Interestings and The Ten-Year Nap - Meg Wolitzer
"Motherhood, like all great topics for a novel, can overwhelm. It's a massive subject with many aspects; how to even approach it? Jennifer Gilmore jumps in, beautifully, in The Mothers, which explores the deep and plangent desire for a child, but also takes on the epic state of contemporary motherhood itself: its status, its limitations, its pleasures and sorrows, and the fantasies that inevitably surround it. This well-observed exploration of maternity both day-to-day and existential has the ache of longing at its heart, and the result is both broad and personal, and always engaging.”
author of May We Be Forgiven and The Mistress's Daughter - A.M. Homes
“I couldn't stop reading it—it had the harrowing qualities of a psychological thriller, the comedy of a familiar Jewish family, and was alternately hysterically funny and heartbreaking. It is down to the bone stripped-bare honest.”
From the Publisher
"The Mothers is a searing examination of the very human desire to be that seemingly simple thing: a mother. Jennifer Gilmore explores the emotional depth and breadth of mothering with raw honesty and her signature grace." —Ann Hood author of The Red Thread and The Knitting Circle

"With a deft touch, lacerating humor, and a gaze at once steely and tenderhearted, Jennifer Gilmore takes us deep into the experience of maternal desire. This is a thoughtful, emotionally resonant and intimate novel."
—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion and Slow Motion

People Magazine
“A wrenching examination of parenthood that ends on a hopeful note.”
Boston Globe
“[Readers] will embrace Gilmore’s willingness to probe deeply into her ugliest feelings.”
Christian Science Monitor
“With scalpel-like precision, Ms. Gilmore takes apart the standard adoptive-parent narrative….Gilmore is a gifted novelist.”
Glamour Magazine
“Faced with the incredibly daunting tasking of doing justice to such a universal and intricate subject, Gilmore rises exquisitely to the occasion….unflinching, touching, and even laugh-out-loud funny.
New York Times Book Review
“A spirited and admirably frank novel.”
USA Today
“An engrossing story of loss, love and motherhood.”
New Yorker
“This engaging novel about a Brooklyn couple’s struggle to adopt a child maintains a playful tone even when dealing with painful circumstances.”
Washington Post
“A brutal but believable story.”
Los Angeles Times
“Through Jesse's obsession with motherhood we can feel not only her yearning but also the backbreaking weight of cultural expectation. "TheMothers" is a lunatic lullaby about one woman's desire for a baby and for the transformative magic she hopes that child will bring.”
Brooklyn Eagle
“Despite the heaviness of her subject matter, Gilmore manages to integrate some comic relief into the story: The Mothers is at once a charming and emotional read.
Jewish Book Council
“Gilmore’s…writing is so real, so immediate, at times so raw even in its poignant humor, that the reader goes through an emotional journey along with the characters…”
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“[Jesse and Ramon’s] adoption odyssey is mapped with aching clarity in Gilmore’s superb new novel. . . . Their journey to parenthood is harrowing but told with such honest intensity that it’s soul enlarging, too.”
Booklist
“Tense and heartbreaking, with moments of surprising humor, this story about families, mothering, and love is both entertaining and thought-provoking.”
Kirkus Reviews
The low-key yet wrenching story of a Brooklyn couple who, after cancer and failed fertility treatment, endure more, different pain in their fixation to achieve parenthood. "What is a mother?" asks Gilmore (Something Red, 2010, etc.) in her third novel, a tale of desperation and adoption so lifelike in its rawness and agonizing detail it could easily pass as autobiography. Answers include the female parents of Jesse and Ramon, the couple thirsting for a baby. Jesse's mother, Jewish and political, contrasts sharply with Ramon's tightly wound, traditional Italian mother. But other kinds of mothers feature too—peers, repositories of her story, even abstract mothers via memories and emotional bonds. And finally there are the U.S. birth mothers on whom Jesse and Ramon depend if they are to adopt, since her cancer history makes foreign adoption harder. The book's plot, such as it is, is the chronology of undergoing the "open" adoption process, a route that adds its own unique pressures, with Jesse and Ramon's relationship often creaking under the strain as they attend training, write their birth-mother letter and create their online profile. And then, once the pregnant women who might choose them start to call, narrator Jesse discovers she has additional lessons to learn about waiting and hoping. Heartbreak occasionally spiced with hilarity characterizes this persuasive docu-novel that scrutinizes mothers with limited sentimentality.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451697889
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
04/09/2013
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
721,182
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

author of The Interestings and The Ten-Year Nap - Meg Wolitzer
"Motherhood, like all great topics for a novel, can overwhelm. It's a massive subject with many aspects; how to even approach it? Jennifer Gilmore jumps in, beautifully, in The Mothers, which explores the deep and plangent desire for a child, but also takes on the epic state of contemporary motherhood itself: its status, its limitations, its pleasures and sorrows, and the fantasies that inevitably surround it. This well-observed exploration of maternity both day-to-day and existential has the ache of longing at its heart, and the result is both broad and personal, and always engaging.”
author of May We Be Forgiven and The Mistress's Daughter - A.M. Homes
“I couldn't stop reading it—it had the harrowing qualities of a psychological thriller, the comedy of a familiar Jewish family, and was alternately hysterically funny and heartbreaking. It is down to the bone stripped-bare honest.”
From the Publisher
"The Mothers is a searing examination of the very human desire to be that seemingly simple thing: a mother. Jennifer Gilmore explores the emotional depth and breadth of mothering with raw honesty and her signature grace." —Ann Hood author of The Red Thread and The Knitting Circle

"With a deft touch, lacerating humor, and a gaze at once steely and tenderhearted, Jennifer Gilmore takes us deep into the experience of maternal desire. This is a thoughtful, emotionally resonant and intimate novel."

—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion and Slow Motion

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Meet the Author

Jennifer Gilmore is the author Golden Country, a 2006 New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Jewish Book Award, and Something Red, a New York Times Notable Book of 2010. Her work has appeared in Allure, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Vogue, and The Washington Post. She lives in Brooklyn.

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