8 Books That Talk Honestly about Motherhood

Claire Handscombe

Mothering is complex, exhausting, heartbreaking, and wonderful -- all of those things at the same time, and a whole lot more besides. There are as many experiences of motherhood in the world as there are are mothers, if not more. These books explore some of those experiences -- and what better time to read them than Mother's Day?

Fleishman is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

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Following the story of a recently divorced dad trying to reenter the world of dating and take care of his kids, this novel is part parody, part commentary of the times we live in. The writing is so insightful. The narrator is a third party – a childhood friend of Toby Fleishman’s – and this added a layer to both the story and the commentary. In particular, I found myself nodding a lot at the commentary about twenty-first century motherhood. And the yoga tops! It’s worth a read for the collection of yoga top slogans alone.

How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson

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This book is a sequel to I Don't Know How She Does It, which was about the exhaustion of motherhood. In How Hard Can It Be? our heroine faces her fiftieth birthday and impossible teenagers.

The Hungover Games, by Sophie Heawood

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Billed as “Bridget Jones’s Diary for the Fleabag generation”, this is a memoir of unplanned singleness and unplanned motherhood, and what happens when life throws you the biggest curveball: one minute Heawood’s living a relatively glamorous L.A. journalist life and seemingly the next she’s six months pregnant and sleeping on her friend’s sofa in rainy England.

Here’s what James Corden says about The Hungover Games: “Sophie has the ability to write as if she’s talking only to you, in moments of humour and pathos. She makes you feel like you’re not on your own. I always feel both inspired and comforted after reading her work. She has a voice as a solo parent that I don’t think is represented in the world today. I am, and will always be, her biggest fan.”

The Inseparables, by Stuart Nadler

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This is an enjoyable multigenerational novel about a grandmother whose scandalous book is being republished, a daughter who is negotiating divorce, and a granddaughter whose nude pic has accidentally been circulated to her whole school. A great story you’ll get through fast!

The Mothers, by Brit Bennett

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The mothers in question here are the older women in a church, through whose eyes we see a developing relationship and its ensuing fallout, and who have a wise, enticing voice. This stunning book presents a very recognisable church community in mainstream literary fiction, and Brit Bennett’s writing is deft and eloquent.

Mother Ship, by Francesca Segal

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Francesca Segal is an Anglo-American writer who has up to now written modern-day retellings of classic novels. In Mother Ship, though, she turns to memoir – writing of the heartache and struggle that followed the very premature birth of her twins. The books is said to combine “the tenderness of a love poem with the compulsive pace of a thriller” as we follow Francesca through weeks of caring for her babies and developing fierce friendships with other women fighting alongside her for their own tiny children.

Trying by Emily Philips

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All your friends are doing it, and it’s time: you’ve moved to the suburbs; you monitor your sex life with military precision; you get ready for a baby. But what happens when you don’t get pregnant? And what happens if you throw in a very attentive boss as you vie for promotion at work? Do you really want what you thought you did?

You Don't Know Me, But I Know You, by Rebecca Barrow

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A book wtih adoption at its heart. this one is a YA novel about newly pregnant Audrey who has just been given a letter that her biological mother wrote her seventeen years ago. As she ponders the choices that lie before her and the different paths they will lead her down, she questions everything she’s ever known about herself.

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Washington, DC

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