I heard about this book over and over again. It was flying off the shelves. My beloved Book of the Month club could barely keep it in stock. All the bookstagrammers, reviewers, and my fellow suspense enthusiasts were raving about The Push by Ashley Audrain.
Was it worth the hype? Absolutely.
It’s difficult to review this book without giving it away, but here it goes.
*Some spoilers ahead – stop reading if you have not read the book!*
Blythe is married to Fox. It’s a very typical story where they met in college and married in their mid-twenties. Shortly after marrying, they had their first child, Violet.
We all know that those first weeks/months/even years can be challenging as a new mother, and Blythe struggles as a mother. She also struggled with poor motherly role models and bad childhood experiences, and these carried over to her adult life. These stories are told throughout the novel as anecdotes, which enhance our doubt of Blythe’s accountability later in the tale.
Violet tends to prefer her father and seems dismissive (and even aggressive) towards Blythe. As the years pass, the parents disagree on their daughter’s temperament and behavior. Fox views Blythe as a poor mother; she views her own child with skepticism and fear.
But everything changes when they have their son, Sam.
Blythe loves Sam immediately, and their relationship is entirely different. Violet has some behaviors and comments that could be seen as intimidating to her baby brother, but they could also be seen as a slightly jealous older sibling. Blythe lives in fear of what her daughter and Sam’s sister might do to her brother, but she does try to be a good mother to both her children.
One unfortunate day, there is an accident with Sam in his stroller. Blythe and the children are waiting to cross a busy street. The stroller rolls into the street and is hit by a car, and he dies. This is a terrible tragedy, yet Blythe is convinced that Violet pushed the stroller out of her hands. Thus, the title: the push.
This is the downfall for the couple’s marriage, after years of suspicion, doubt, and disagreements. Fox moves on to another woman and steadfastly supports their daughter’s innocence, while Blythe cannot shake her firm belief that Violet is dangerous and malicious. She is by no means an angelic child but it begs the question: is she as evil as her mother claims her to be? Is Violet truly responsible for her brother’s death?
It also leads us to more questions.
At what point is a child deemed sociopathic? Are children doomed to repeat the legacies of their parents (as Blythe appears to do) or are children born “bad” in a way? Did Violet really push that stroller and if she did, was it a one-time mistake or another check on her list of evil deeds?
I wish I could say that I had the answer or that after the tragedy, the character’s lives improved. I suppose that depends on your perspective. The draw of The Push was in the suspense of each chapter and fraught moment between mother and daughter; the secrets that everyone kept; the unanswered questions that both the characters and we readers had at the end.