“How can we know how it will go for us, us ambivalent women of thirty-seven? On the one hand, the joy of children. On the other hand, the misery of them. On the one hand, the freedom of not having children. On the other hand, the loss of never having had them- but what is there to lose? The love, the child, and all those motherly feelings that the mothers speak about in such an enticing way, as though a child is something to have, not something to do.”
-Sheila Heti, Motherhood
Sheila Heti’s Motherhood is profoundly beautiful. I found myself reading countless passages aloud to my mom as we sat eating lunch together. I wish I could include every quote I loved, but then I’d just have to type the whole book! Motherhood is one of those books you really want to take your time with. I couldn’t read much in one sitting because I felt I needed time to digest Heti’s thoughts and my own. Though it is technically a fiction novel, Motherhood reads like a memoir; the unnamed narrator is remarkably similar to Heti herself.
From the jacket:
Motherhood treats one of the most consequential decisions of early adulthood- whether or not to have children- with the intelligence, wit, and originality that have won Sheila Heti international acclaim, and which led her previous book, How Should a Person Be? to be called “one of the most talked-about books of the year” (Time magazine).
Having reached an age when most her peers are asking themselves when they will become mothers, Heti’s narrator considers, with the same urgency, whether she will do so at all. Over the course of several years, under the influence of her partner, body, family, friends, mysticism, and chance, she struggles to make a moral and meaningful choice. In a compellingly direct mode that straddles the forms of the novel and the essay, Motherhood raises radical and essential questions about womanhood, parenthood, and how- and for whom- to live.
“I have never wanted to feel like I’m dependent on a man. I’ve done everything I could do to avoid it. Yet men are dependent on women, too, and all humans are dependent on things beyond the human.”
-Sheila Heti, Motherhood
Motherhood highlights Heti’s fascinating thought process. I think I do a great job of staying open-minded and listening to other people’s opinions, so I quite enjoyed taking a look inside Heti’s decision-making, even if her end-result might differ from mine. No matter your age, gender, or sexuality, Motherhood will surely speak to you on some level. My next mission is reading everything Sheila Heti has every written.
Further Reading: “The Child Thing: An Interview with Sheila Heti” by Claudia Dey, The Paris Review; “Should Sheila Heti Have a Baby?” by Molly Fischer, The Cut; “Sheila Heti Wrestles with a Big Decision in ‘Motherhood'” by Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker.
Find this book on Goodreads.