Motherhood

Author(s): Sheila Heti

Novel | Read our reviews!

**A Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Irish Times, Refinery29, TLSand The White ReviewBook of the Year 2018**

A provocative novel about the desire and duty to procreate, from the author of the critically acclaimed How Should A Person Be?


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.

Having reached an age when most of her peers are asking themselveswhen 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, Motherhoodraises radical and essential questions about womanhood, parenthood, and how - and for whom - to live.

__________________
STELLA'S REVIEW: 
A book about motherhood by Sheila Heti. Or is it? Heti’s ‘novel’, much like her excellent How Should A Person Be? is much less novel and more a series of not-quite-true but ever-so-true deliberations, and an existential rant — but the best kind: indulgent, prescient, intimate (unnervingly so at times) and extremely funny in a strange sideways glimpse at herself and others like her. Although she would almost believe she is the only one obsessing over the question, To have a child or not?  It’s a book about motherhood, about being a parent, and what that relationship means or could provide a person, as much as it is a book about writing and the obsessive nature of creative practice and the need for this self-awareness to be a good creative — an 'art monster' (Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation). Yet Heti is torn between her desire to write and the pleasure, the satisfaction this brings her, and the confusion that swirls in her head about being a mother and whether this will bring her a different completion. As she obsesses about motherhood she questions everyone and observes her friends and family about this elusive — to her —  state of being. She wrongly or rightly presumes that she should have a child, that she wants a child, and on the other hand, she does not. Her dilemma is mired in expectations, both external and internal, and the 'ticking clock', of which women are constantly reminded. Are you past the age of being a worthwhile contributor? Even in 2020, we are judged on our reproductive choices (think about women’s rights over their own bodies in regard to abortion laws), and somehow procreating, even in times of crisis (environmental and economic), is still way up there on people’s to-do lists. Not that Heti is overly concerned about the politics of reproduction or motherhood: her focus is on the intensely personal — on her experience and where these thoughts, these deliberations, take her and the reader. She’s irrational and highly emotional, and this makes her book one of the best about motherhood and the questioning of its function, on an intellectual as well as emotional level. Her book is, in the end, is as much a look at what it means to be someone's child as it is to have a child. Her deliberations take her on a journey of understanding her own mother and her grandmother and their roles as parents and individuals — a revelation that we don’t clearly think about. We know how we are as a child of our parents, but when do we consider what that relationship means from the other view — who we are, what we mean, to the mother (or father)? And if you can’t address your existential question about whether to have a child or not, you can do what Shelia Heti does and consult the coin — heads for yes, tails for no — and ask yourself a series of questions (often ridiculous and very amusing)  about yourself, your intimates and your writing. For this is a book about being a writer. 


 ______________


THOMAS'S REVIEW:
Is flipping coins to determine answers to questions posed by the flipper of the coins a good way to guide your life?
no
If flipping coins to determine answers to questions posed by the flipper of the coins a good way to write a book?
no
But isn’t this book, Motherhood, which has been written by flipping coins to determine the answers to questions posed by the flipper of the coins, in this case Sheila Heti, the author of the book, a good book?
yes
Is Motherhood a good book, then, because it was written by Sheila Heti rather than because it was written by flipping coins?
yes
When Sheila—the Sheila who is a character in the book, which the reader is permitted to assume is the same person (whatever that means) as Sheila Heti the author of the book— says, “I don’t think I have a heart—a heart I can consult. Instead, I have these coins,” is that a good way for either the character in the book or the author of the book to proceed?
yes
Is flipping coins to determine the answers to questions posed by the flipper of the coins a good way to write a review of a book that has been written by flipping coins to determine the answers to questions posed by the author?
no
If I wrote a review in such a way, would I be able to do it without cheating, in other words, without only pretending that I had flipped coins when I had not actually flipped coins at all, or flipping the coins but then overriding the outcomes of those coins if they did not suit me?
no
Would it be better if I didn’t waste time looking for coins, then?
yes
And Sheila Heti, can I be sure that she didn’t cheat when writing a book by flipping coins to determine the answers to questions she posed?
no
Does this matter?
no
In fact, might this not be a good way to compose a novel or somesuch, or find a way out of writer’s block, whatever that is, or determine a way out of any predicament, at least any fictional predicament, given that predicaments usually arise from the presence of binaries—either A or not-A, for example—and so seem to clamour for a resolution that can be expressed in a binary way?
yes
Just as writing conversation can be a good way to find a way out of writer’s block, whatever that is, even writer’s block visited upon the writing of a book review?
yes
Even if one side of the conversation says only either yes or no?
yes
Are the results I might achieve this way satisfactory?
no
Would the results be satisfactory with a different approach?
no
Is any of this useful in so-called real life?
no
But doesn’t Sheila Heti apply this approach to the real-life question—if we accept that the Sheila of the book corresponds to the real-life Sheila, the book’s author—of whether or not she wants to or should have a child, or become a mother, which may or may not imply having a child, depending on how subtly the concept of motherhood is understood or defined?
yes
So this approach is not useful?
no
You mean it is useful?
yes
Can you explain that?
no
Can Sheila Heti explain that?
yes
Does she do so in this passage, when she consults her coins?
“Is any of the above true?
no
Is there any use in any of this, if none of it is true?
no
Even if you said yes, it wouldn’t matter. You don’t mean anything to me. You don’t know the future, and you don’t know anything about my life, or what I should be doing. You are complete randomness, without meaning. [However] you have shown me some good things, but that is just me picking up the good in all the nothing you have shown me.”

yes
As Sheila approaches forty she suffers from ambivalence about whether or not to have a child before it is ‘too late’. She can’t seem to disentangle what might be the expectations of her by others because she is a woman from what might be her biological inclinations as a woman, not that this concept necessarily has any validity, and from her own expectations and inclinations. Is it even possible to disentangle these things?
no
Would it be true to say that the more you think about things in these terms the less sense these terms make?
yes
Is there any point in thinking about things in these terms?
no
Unless, perhaps, it is useful to get to the point at which these terms make no sense?
yes
Does Sheila obsess over the question of whether or not to have a child as a way of relieving herself of the question of whether or not to have a child?
yes
A way of avoiding having a child, even?
yes
Saying yes to having a child would remove the uncertainty of whether or not to have a child and the uncertainty could not be regained, at least not in that form, but saying no merely provides the opportunity for the uncertainty to resurge at the next possible moment for it to be considered. Prevarication is, therefore, such a tiring prophylactic. Is the book to some extent somehow about the deep problems of decision-making, in whatever sphere of life, about whether we can disentangle the force of what we might call ‘will’ from the force of what we might, for want of a better word, call ‘fate’ (‘determinism’ is probably a better word)?
yes
When Sheila says, “Sometimes I am convinced that a child will add depth to all things—just bring a background of depth and meaning to whatever it is I do. I also think I might have brain cancer. There’s something I can feel in my brain, like a finger pressing down,” is her problem really about depth and meaning rather than about having a child?
yes
Sheila says, “This will be a book to prevent future tears.” Is this book, Motherhood, perhaps more about depression—Sheila’s, her mother’s, perhaps the reader’s—than it is about motherhood per se?
no
Sheila says, “I am a blight on my own life.” She says, “Nothing harms the earth more than another person—and nothing harms a person more than being born.” She says, thinking of her decision to be a writer and all the time she has consequently spent arranging commas, “When I was younger, writing felt like more than enough, but now I feel like a drug addict, like I’m missing out on life.” Is there a sense in which writing and ‘living’ are incompatible modes of existence?
yes
When Sheila states that resisting urges has previously led her to more interesting places, is it useful for her to think about resisting the urge to have a child—wherever that urge originates—as a way of bringing depth and meaning to her life? 
yes
Does she in fact find more depth and meaning by resisting the urge to have a child?
yes
Does this depth and meaning, or at least the finding of more depth and meaning if not the depth and meaning themselves, have some sort of tangible expression?
yes
This book?
yes
Early in the book, Heti identifies her struggles with the mythic struggles of Jacob wrestling with the unknown being “until the breaking of the day,” and she concludes the book an altered quote from the Torah: “Then I named this wrestling-place Motherhood, for here is where I saw God face-to-face, and yet my life was spared.” Is that a satisfactory way to end the book?
yes
Is that a satisfactory way to end my review?
no
Should I go on?
no

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Product Information

General Fields

  • : 9780099592846
  • : penguin random house
  • : Arrow
  • : April 2019
  • : ---length:- '19.8'width:- '12.9'units:- Centimeters
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 813/.6
  • : 350
  • : Sheila Heti
  • : Paperback
  • : English