Brooke's Pick: The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan
After one moment of poor judgment involving her daughter Harriet, Frida Liu falls victim to a host of government officials who will determine if she is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.
“I am a bad mother, but I am learning to be good.”
How many mothers have had a bad day? It is safe to say that all moms have had, at minimum, at least one day where their parenting wasn’t up to snuff. A day where they didn’t follow baby book guidance. A day where they let their child consume too much sugar. A day where they ignored their baby while attending to another task. But do these mishaps make these women “bad mothers?” Is the only good mother a perfect mother? Such is the question raised in Jessamine Chan’s unsettling debut novel, The School for Good Mothers, a cautionary dystopian tale of government overreach in a world that only sees black and white, good and bad.
When Frida Liu, worn out by the demands of raising her young daughter Harriet as a newly single parent, has a bad day, it is fated to haunt her for the rest of her life. Frida lives in an America that looks deceptively similar to our own, but with one startling difference. Parents who are reported to Child Protective Services find themselves enrolled in a special school where they learn to be “good mothers and fathers.” Frida is court-ordered to attend the School for Good Mothers after her very bad day, and now must learn how to be good.
The School for Good Mothers is one of the most disturbing, unconventional, and heartbreaking novels I have read in some time. Frida Liu’s America could be our America with expanded government and regulation. An America where parents are never given a chance to mess up. An America where punishing mothers and fathers for the slightest neglect takes precedence over what is best for their child.
This novel is quietly horrifying, while at the same time, blood-boiling infuriating. The School for Good Mothers employs unorthodox methods to teach moms and dads how to parent, and is run as if learning how to be a good parent is textbook. Its strict adherence to what a good parent looks like leaves little room for what actual children are like, and doesn’t take into consideration all the ways that kids surprise us and test our love, boundaries, and expectations.
Prepare to be equal parts horrified and heartbroken while reading The School for Good Mothers. This story is ugly, tragic, and terrifying, and will give readers much to contemplate long after closing its covers.
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Rating: **** Stars (I really liked it) Reviewer: Brooke, Public Relations Librarian
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AWARDS: LibraryReads Favorites: 2022
GENRE: Book Club Best Bets; Dystopian Fiction; Literary Fiction
TONE: Haunting; Moving; Thought-Provoking
STORYLINE: Character-Driven; Own Voices
WRITING STYLE: Compelling
SUBJECT: Asian People; Authoritarianism; Child Protective Services; Chinese American Women; Divorced Women; East Asian People; Judgment; Misogyny; Motherhood; Mothers and Daughters; Parenting; Perfection; Political Surveillance; Schools; Social Control
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