“School for Good Mothers” is an imperfect but intense debut novel

"School for Good Mothers" is an imperfect but intense debut novel
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“I’m a bad mother, but I’m learning to be good.”

Jessamine Chan’s dystopian novel “School of Good Mothers” is by no means perfect – neither is its heroine, Frida. However, Chan has built both a novel and a character that demonstrates the desperate desire and exhaustion of motherhood with a level of depth that few other literary works have reached.

“School for Good Mothers” focuses on Frida Liu, a Chinese-American mother living in a near-future and seemingly normal version of Philadelphia, who is exhausted from fighting with her ex-husband for custody of their baby, Harriet. Frida’s postpartum depression, Zoloft withdrawals, and exhaustion produce a state of fatigue that causes her to leave home and Harriet for a few hours. Back home, she is confronted with the police and her ex-husband who send her for a year to a re-education camp, where she will learn to be a good mother. The central part of the novel takes place in “the school”, located on an abandoned college campus, where mothers are subjected to strange and unspeakable horrors. If Frida is not successful, she will lose her ability to see Harriet.

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