The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Published: January 4, 2021

Simon & Schuster

Pages: 336

KKECReads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I received a copy of this novel for free, and I leave my review voluntarily.

Jessamine Chan’s short stories have appeared in Tin House and Epoch. A former reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, she holds an MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts and a BA from Brown University. Her work has received support from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Wurlitzer Foundation, the Jentel Foundation, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the Anderson Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.

“I am a bad mother, but I am learning to be good.”

Frieda is a single mother co-parenting with her ex-husband, who had an affair and decided to end their marriage. When Frieda makes a terrible mistake, her works as she knows it completely crumbles, and she finds herself attempting to explain; but no one will listen. Now, Frieda must claim to be things she isn’t, say something she doesn’t mean- for the slim opportunity that she will get her daughter back.

This book hurt my heart for so many reasons. Frieda is such a beautifully sad character. Gust was surprisingly not an entire piece of garbage, considering.

Also, I was not too fond of a lot of this book. The writing is beautiful, and the story is well told. The characters are represented well. But my god. The atrocities these women faced.

I did enjoy the fact that this novel focused on the unrealistic standards we hold women, especially mothers, too. A mother should live for their child. Nothing else matters.

Mothers lose their identities in motherhood. Frieda suddenly wasn’t a woman who made mistakes, and she was a bad mother. She was a narcissist. The mental and emotional abuse is unreal.

The home was terrifying. The dolls, terrifying. The brain scans, the examinations, the keepers in pink- scary hearing these women share their stories, and yes, some were bad, and hearing the treatment was enough to make me need a timeout.

Frieda is a beautiful character. The things she represents, the love she has for her daughter, her desire to be good, and good enough. I found her complex yet simple. She wanted the things most people want out of life, to be a good mom, take care of her family, make her parents proud, find love, be happy, be accepted. Be good enough.

I loved how Chinese culture was lightly woven throughout this novel, and I loved Frieda’s parents; her dad melted my heart. The way race, ethnicity, and culture are discussed in this novel are essential. Representation matters and Emmanuelle was a way of representing so much.

Jessamine Chan wrote a beautiful story about family, culture, tradition, and motherhood. Jessamine Chan also turned the floodlights on the unreal expectations that are placed on mothers every single day.

Did Frieda mess up? Yes. Should she have been reprimanded? Definitely, but the things she was put through. The things that were taken away. The things she witnessed. Wow.

This is a heavy novel with a lot to unpack. But it is powerful, necessary, sad, and scary. Jessamine Chan isn’t holding back- she’s kicking 2022 off with an emotionally captivating story that will grip you from page one. 强大的. 母親. 永恆的愛. 好媽媽.

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