This Book Has a Big Secret

"The Mothers" is one of the most talked-about books of the year—and a major secret is at the center of its captivating plot.


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Britt Bennett tries the Sour Plum Jam Sorbet at Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream in New York City, inspired by her debut novel "The Mothers."

When 17-year-old beauty Nadia Turner starts dating the local pastor's son, their lives are bound forever by a secret neither of them can tell. We talked to the author, Britt Bennett (who was the same age as Nadia when she started the book!), about writing a novel so captivating, it had an ice cream flavor named after it.

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If "The Mothers" were a song, what would it be?

"Son of a Preacher Man," which I actually listened to a lot as I was writing this book—mostly because it's a great song. It's less to do with me, and everything to do with Dusty Springfield.

Bennett reads a favorite passage about Nadia Turner, the book's complex protagonist. (Note the inspiration behind the book's custom ice cream flavor!)

Which famous fictional character is your kindred spirit?

A lot of fictional characters I really like are more aspirational, so my aspirational fictional character is Olivia Pope from Scandal. Even though her personal life is a mess, she is way more put together in other aspects of my life than I could ever be.

"I think the beginning came most naturally, because I always knew how it would open: This girl faced with a really difficult choice." –Britt Bennett

What's your biggest distraction from writing?

Television, if that was not apparent by me aspiring to be Olivia Pope! It's almost stressful how many good shows there are to watch. Waiting for me on the DVR when I get home are Atlanta (which I love), Insecure (I've only seen the first episode but it's hilarious), Queen Sugar (I'm behind so I need to catch up), How to Get Away With Murder (guilty pleasure), and Transparent (I still need to finish). I just have a lot of things I need to get to.

Bennett discusses the first book she ever loved, and the toughest part about writing a book.

Ava DuVernay [who directed Selma, 13th, Queen Sugar], because she's incredible and amazingly talented. She's a great filmmaker and very attentive to her characters, and she's my favorite director out there right now.

The Mothers, $16, amazon.com.

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