The Next Chapter

Ashley Audrain explores the mother-daughter bond in the domestic thriller The Push

The Toronto author spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing the bestselling novel.
The Push is a novel by Ashley Audrain. (Viking Canada, Barbara Stoneham)

The Push is Canadian author Ashley Audrain's first book — and the domestic thriller is currently one of the bestselling books of the year. The Push has also been optioned for TV and film.

The Push is about a woman named Blythe Connor 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. 

Ashley Audrain began writing The Push when she was on maternity leave. She was thinking about the heavy expectations that surround motherhood.

Audrain spoke with Shelagh Rogers about why she wrote The Push.

My first novel

"I had always wanted to write my own novel, from the time that I was a little girl. If you had asked me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer would have been a writer or a novelist.

"Although I had always written in the evenings and on the weekends, I pursued a different career path. I was a publicity director for a publishing company for a couple of years — and the writing fell to the wayside during those years.

I had always wanted to write my own novel, from the time that I was a little girl.

"I didn't write much at all during that time. Looking back, it was a time for me to read widely. I read literary and commercial books from authors I wouldn't have picked up before. I can see that now as being its own kind of literary education — although I wasn't sitting down as much to write then."

Thinking about motherhood

"I have always had a bit of an obsession with motherhood. It was never an obsession in a way that I wanted to be a mother or that I couldn't wait to be a mother — because for most of my life, until I had kids, I wasn't sure if I would. I didn't know if that was something that I would want to do, or that it was for me.

"My obsession was more about wondering why women do it —  why women choose to have children and how it changes them. I have a wonderful mother, someone who is really nothing like the mothers in this book.

My obsession was more about wondering why women do it —  why women choose to have children, and how it changes them.

"But I was always aware of the fact that it was not the case for many women. And I didn't really feel that kind of maternal pull or maternal instinct; I really questioned if I would have that. 

"I have two children now. They are now five and three. It does not surprise me that this is where my mind went for fiction — or that I've ended up writing about this."

A time to bond

"Blythe comes from this history of women who have struggled so greatly with motherhood. She's very aware of that. She wants to break that cycle with her own daughter. She wants to be the very warm, present and engaged mom that she never had. 

"So when she has this baby, at the very beginning she isn't connecting with her. And she starts to question if this is all of the maternal anxiety she's carried for so long —  all this fear of what her mother and her grandmother went through.

Blythe comes from this history of women who have struggled so greatly with motherhood.

"And so there's this extra layer for her when she's trying to bond with this infant. She starts to wonder if it is the child that is the problem. Her daughter is quite aloof and quite angry — and soon begins to act maliciously toward other children. 

"And so Blythe does this sort of back and forth —  is it me, or is it her? She knows she comes from a troubled line of women — and she wonders if she has passed this along to her own child."

Ashley Audrain's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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