A BOOK IN THE OVEN If you are a new parent with a few hours of child care on your hands, you may be inclined to sneak in a nap, take a walk or call a friend to talk about the baby you are so eager to escape.
Ashley Audrain chose a different path: writing. Starting when her son was 6 months old, she used every free moment to write “The Push,” a thoughtful suspense novel about the dark side of motherhood that just spent three weeks on the hardcover fiction list. In a phone interview, Audrain recalled hunkering down in a Toronto coffee shop, where she easily slipped into the mind-set of a woman who believes her daughter is a bad seed.
“What happens in the book is fiction, but I did draw from my own experience of certain emotions and the day-to-day life of motherhood,” she said. Audrain had always enjoyed writing, but never found peace in the process until she was adjusting to life as a parent: “It wasn’t hard for me to spend time in these difficult scenes because they became a creative outlet. I felt the most like myself when I was writing. And then it was very easy for me to close my laptop, leave the coffee shop and go home to my family.”
Long before she had children of her own, Audrain was fascinated by motherhood, but “mostly from the perspective of wondering why women did it.” She never played with dolls, hated babysitting and “wasn’t a kid person in general.” This former publicity director of Penguin Books Canada, who is the mother of two, explained, “I think I had children because I didn’t want to regret not having them. Of course now I love being a mother, but I love it with the caveat that you can love your children while still having days when you wish you didn’t have the responsibilities that come along with them. Nobody talks about this, and I think it’s the in-between space where most of us live, especially now.”
Audrain takes inspiration from a range of authors, including Leila Slimani, Celeste Ng and Alice Munro. She appreciates stories about the “quiet lives of women” and books, like Ng’s, that are “less about what happened and more about why it has happened.” In “The Push,” she said, her goal was to “explore the expectation society puts on women to have a certain experience of motherhood, for it to look and feel one way. I wanted to hold a mirror up and make people realize how important it is to ask different questions of women they love, to have new conversations with the mothers in their lives.”