Review: The School for Good Mothers

The School for Good Mothers

The School for Good Mothers
By Jessamine Chan
Simon & Schuster, 9781982156121, January 4, 2022, 336pp.

The Short of It:

Loved this weird, quirky story about motherhood.

The Rest of It:

Frida leaves her toddler alone for a few hours and is reported to the authorities. Already struggling with her husband Gust leaving her for a younger woman, not able to find a career worthy or important enough to impress her parents, losing her child is the perfect ending to a very bad day.

But all is not lost because she has been sentenced to The School for Good Mothers. This school focuses on the basics of childcare, but gently builds to more complicated matters such as discipline, intent, empathy and the all important eye-contact and inflection and tone. And how is this accomplished? By assigning a life-like robot, or “doll” to each mother. One that requires the constant monitoring of the blue viscous goo that keeps them running. Failing to notice a rise in temperature, failure to change the doll’s fluid regularly, results in the loss of privileges such as phone calls home to her actual daughter, Harriet.

Frida, like most of the mothers in this school struggle with the idea of taking on a doll as their child. Let me tell you, these things are life-like and feel things. They express frustration and pain and it’s all recorded by the teachers and observers assigned to each mother. Data collection rarely points to the positives, but instead focuses on the one time Frida pinches her doll, leaving a permanent mark upon her form. The pressure to do well is palpable. Frida’s only goal is to get through it so she can get Harriet back but as she continues to lose her privileges, Harriet becomes more of a stranger as contact diminishes.

This was a surprise read for me. I am not sure what I expected but robotic dolls wasn’t it and yet I ate it up. Every word. It’s a strange story and very futuristic but if you compare it to today’s world, mothers are often given the short end of the stick when it comes to childcare. I really enjoyed Chan’s skill in regards to taking a reader through this experience without casting judgment on the parenting choices made.

Highly recommend but it isn’t a story to leave you all warm and fuzzy. It’s a little cold and sterile but I tend to like these kinds of reads.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

9 thoughts on “Review: The School for Good Mothers”

  1. This reminds me of Tara Campbell’s short story collection, Cabinet of Wrath, only hers is a bit darker…there are lots of dolls. This sounds interesting to me.

    1. I like dystopian stories. It reminded me of Never Let Me Go and Klara and the Sun. I can see how it may not work for some though.

  2. This makes me think of the dolls kids carry around in health class that now have computer chips in them (remember when we carried around eggs?!). They record everything the student does or doesn’t do for their child. And the dolls cry. A lot.

  3. I didn’t like this one at all. In fact, I had to DNF it. I just didn’t like Frida and so I didn’t care what happened to her. Oh well. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much 🙂

    1. I didn’t like Frida but I felt some empathy for her, having to deal with her husband leaving her and having to be forced to be civil to the mistress for the sake of the kid.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s