Announcing the Reader’s Digest Book Club Pick for Winter 2021

Every month, we recommend a new must-read book. Here’s what you need to know about Ashley Audrain's The Push.

Cover of The Push by Ashley AudrainCourtesy of Penguin Random House

What It’s About

The Push by Ashley Audrain

($25, Penguin Random House)

It may only be January, but we’re already calling it: Toronto’s Ashley Audrain has written the thriller of the year. This is a book where characters stalk each other in dollar-store wigs, where grade-schoolers plot elaborate murders and where one woman throws her dead lover’s severed leg at her abusive father. It’s the story of Blythe, who’s haunted by her absent, abusive mother and grandmother, who each faced misogyny and struggled with mental illness. Desperate to break the family curse, she does what she thinks she’s supposed to do: she falls in love, gets married and has a baby. But Blythe doesn’t take to motherhood as she’d hoped, and her daughter, Violet, isn’t quite right. As a kid, she’s cold, manipulative and given to petty cruelties. Blythe seems to be the only one who can see it, and the novel hangs on this delicate, excruciating dance between bad mom and bad seed, two people who hate and need each other in equal measure. The book functions the same way, impossible to stop reading but freighted with doom.

Why You’ll Love It

What Gone Girl did for marriage, The Push does for motherhood, peering behind the cheery facade of domesticity. Audrain is a gifted storyteller, and at first glance, the book is a feast of pulpy plot, cinematic jump scares and gasp-inducing twists. Under the potboiler surface, however, it’s a haunted house of modern motherhood. Blythe mourns the loss of her independence as she caters to Violet’s needs. She blames herself when she doesn’t experience the maternal euphoria she thinks she’s supposed to feel. She resents her husband, who seems to reap all the benefits of parenting without doing much of the work—he coddles their daughter but leaves Blythe to handle all the discipline. Blythe can never quite tell how much of her anguish stems from her daughter’s supposed sociopathy and how much comes from her own failings as a mom. The plot may be pure melodrama, but the truths it reveals are as sharp as a bee sting.

Who Wrote It

Toronto’s Ashley Audrain spent much of her career touting other people’s books as a publicity director for Penguin Random House Canada. While on maternity leave, she began quietly plugging away at her own. In 2019, the first-time author became the literary world’s latest Cinderella when The Push sold in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. in a series of seven-figure deals.

Parent Trap

The Push’s Blythe joins a sisterhood of unhappy moms:

MEDEA In revenge for her husband leaving her, the original “bad mom” kills her two sons and her ex’s new wife.

CHRIS MACNEIL The mom played by Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist needs to find a priest who can help her fix her head-spinning, projectile vomiting demon daughter.

ROSEMARY WOODHOUSE Mia Farrow plays the apartment-bound, unwilling mother to Satan’s son in Rosemary’s Baby, the thriller based on a bestseller by Ira Levin.

CERSEI LANNISTER While she’s plotting to rule the seven kingdoms in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, each of her three children perish.

Join the Conversation

Visit our Facebook page to share your experience of reading The Push with fellow Reader’s Digest Book Clubbers. Comment on plot twists and speculate on who should play Blythe and Violet in the screen adaptation (the film and TV rights recently sold in a nine-way bidding war).

Next, check out our previous book club picks for Fall 2020!

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada