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Description de l’éditeur
Longlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel
Longlisted for the 2023 Carnegie Medal for Excellence
Shortlisted for The Center for Fiction 2022 First Novel Prize
Selected as One of Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2022!
In this New York Times bestseller and Today show Read with Jenna Book Club Pick, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance, in this “surreal” (People), “remarkable” (Vogue), and “infuriatingly timely” (The New York Times Book Review) debut novel.
Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.
Until Frida has a very bad day.
The state has its eye on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgement, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.
Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.
An “intense” (Oprah Daily), “captivating” (Today) page-turner that is also a transgressive novel of ideas about the perils of “perfect” upper-middle class parenting; the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another; the systems that separate families; and the boundlessness of love, The School for Good Mothers introduces, in Frida, an everywoman for the ages. Using dark wit to explore the pains and joys of the deepest ties that bind us, Chan has written a modern literary classic.
Chan's enthralling speculative debut opens with a woman having "one very bad day" in Philadelphia. Frida Liu, Chinese American and recently divorced, has left her daughter, 18-month-old Harriet, alone at home in an ExerSaucer for two hours so she can work, a decision that results in Harriet's removal to a crisis center. Frida is then sentenced by a family court judge to one year in a live-in rehab program for bad moms that will use constant instruction, training, and supervision to determine if she can make "sufficient progress" as a mother or if her parental rights should be terminated. Guided by the mantra "I am a bad mother, but I am learning to be good," Frida and the other 200 moms must prove their worth by raising surrogate children in order to earn their own children back. Chan raises the stakes as she explores Frida's relationships with the other mothers, Harriet and Emmanuelle (her surrogate daughter), her ex-husband's new family, and her romantic interests. Chan (a former PW reviews editor) also tightens the screws of the program itself as the leaders capriciously deny privileges, such as 10-minute Sunday phone calls home, and broaden the definitions for what's considered an offense. Woven seamlessly throughout are societal assumptions and stereotypes about mothers, especially mothers of color, and their consequences. Chan's imaginative flourishes render the mothers' vulnerability to social pressures and governmental whims nightmarish and palpable. It's a powerful story, made more so by its empathetic and complicated heroine. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, DeFiore and Company.