Books·First Look

Read an excerpt from the new Canadian thriller The Push by Ashley Audrain

The Push is Canadian author Ashley Audrain's first book. The domestic thriller is expected to be one of the biggest books of 2021.
The Push is a novel by Ashley Audrain. (Viking Canada, Barbara Stoneham)

The Push is Canadian author Ashley Audrain's first book, but the domestic thriller is already expected to be one of the biggest books of 2021.

The book's manuscript sold in several countries around the world, including the United Kingdom and the United States, earning Audrain more than $1 million.

It was picked up in Canada by Viking Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada, where Audrain previously worked in the publicity department. Audrain currently lives in Toronto, where she is raising her two young children.

The Push is about a woman who is experiencing motherhood for the first time, but it's not like anything she expected — in fact, it's everything she was terrified it would be.

"The Push is a gripping and psychologically probing exploration of the bonds of family, the complexity and loneliness of motherhood and the devastating nature of grief," Penguin Canada's publisher Nicole Winstanley said in a press statement when the book was acquired.

The Push is now available.

You can read an excerpt from The Push below.

I don't normally watch for this long, but you're all so beautiful tonight and I can't bring myself to leave. The snow, the kind that sticks, the kind she'll roll into snowmen in the morning to please her little brother. I turn on my wipers, adjust the heat, and notice the clock change from 7:29 to 7:30. This is when you'd have read her The Polar Express.

Your wife, she's in the chair now, and she's watching the three of you bounce around the room. She laughs and collects her long, loose curls to the side. She smells your drink and puts it down. She smiles. Your back is to her so you can't see what I can, that she's holding her stomach with one hand, that she rubs herself ever so slightly and then looks down, that she's lost in the thought of what's growing inside her. They are cells. But they are everything. You turn around and her attention is pulled back to the room. To the people she loves.

I don't normally watch for this long, but you're all so beautiful tonight and I can't bring myself to leave.

She will tell you tomorrow morning.

I still know her so well.

I look down to put on my gloves. When I look back up the girl is standing at your open front door. Her face is half lit by the lantern above your house number. The plate she's holding is stacked with carrots and cookies. You'll leave crumbs on the tile floor of the foyer. You'll play along and so will she.

Now she's looking at me sitting in my car. She shivers. The dress your wife bought her is too small and I can see that her hips are growing, that her chest is blooming. With one hand she carefully pulls her ponytail over her shoulder and it's more the gesture of a woman than a girl.

For the first time in her life, I think our daughter looks like me.

I put down the car window and I lift my hand, a hello, a secret hello. She places the plate at her feet and stands again to look at me before she turns around to go inside. To her family. I watch for the drapes to be yanked closed, for you to come to the door to see why the hell I am parked outside of your home on a night like tonight. And what, really, could I say? I was lonely? I missed her? I deserved to be the mother inside your glowing house?

Instead she prances back into the living room, where you've coaxed your wife up from the chair. While you dance together, close, feeling up the back of her shirt, our daughter takes the boy's hand and leads him to the centre of the living room window. An actor hitting her mark on the stage. They were framed so precisely.

And what, really, could I say? I was lonely? I missed her? I deserved to be the mother inside your glowing house?

He looks just like Sam. He has his eyes. And that wave of dark hair that ends in a curl, the curl I wrapped around my finger over and over again.

I feel sick.

Our daughter is staring out the window looking at me, her hands on your son's shoulders. She bends down and kisses him on the cheek. And then again. And then again. The boy likes the affection. He is used to it. He is pointing to the falling snow but she won't look away from me. She rubs the top of his arms as though she's warming him up. Like a mother would do.

You come to the window and kneel down to the boy's level. You look out and then you look up. My car doesn't catch your eye. You point to the snowflakes like your son, and you trace a path across the sky with your finger. You're talking about the sleigh. About the reindeer. He's searching the night, trying to see what you see. You flick him playfully under the chin. Her eyes are still fixed on me. I find myself sitting back in my seat. I swallow and finally look away from her. She always wins.

When I look back she's still there, watching my car.

I think she might reach for the curtain, but she doesn't. My eyes don't leave her this time. I pick up the thick stack of paper beside me on the passenger seat and feel the weight of my words.

I've come here to give this to you.

This is my side of the story.

Excerpted from The Push by Ashley Audrain. Copyright © 2021 Ashley Audrain. Published by Viking Canada, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved. 


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