An Instant New York Times Bestseller
A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick
In this taut and explosive debut novel, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance.
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 eyes 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 judgment, 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.
A searing 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In Jessamine Chan’s dark debut, the ultimate helicopter parent is the state. Hardworking single mother Frida Liu is struggling to raise her toddler when, in a moment of terrible judgment, she leaves her daughter alone for a couple of hours. The next thing she knows, Frida’s lost custody to her ex-husband and is trapped in an authoritarian parenting school ripped from George Orwell’s worst nightmares. Chan’s disturbing thriller plays with the common parental anxiety of being far from perfect—and constantly being judged. We were hooked listening to the beleaguered but likable Frida fight her way through an alternative modern world full of awkward blended families, passive-aggressive custody agreements, and a positively dystopian version of Child Protective Services. Narrator Catherine Ho’s on-point voice work highlights every chilling and suspenseful beat. Like the best episodes of Black Mirror, this is a fun-house version of a frighteningly plausible world.